Pablo Neruda's poem, Ode to the Tomato, is a wonderful anthem for this tasty time of year. As a celebration of the season where tomatoes ripen in the field of Vermont, Everyday Chef is creating Ode to the Tomato, a short series that will explore the why and how of eating tomatoes.
Unpacking your veggies when you arrive home often consists of opening the refrigerator and unloading. Not so when it comes to tomato season. You may have heard it before, and it’s really true: Don’t refrigerate tomatoes.
Tomatoes are warm climate crops and are sensitive to cold temperatures–in fact, they won’t ripen when the daytime temperature falls below 60 degrees fahrenheit. In fact, it is this point in the fall--when daytime temperatures don't quite reach 60 degrees--that gardeners and farmers alike head out to the field to pick every last green tomato. From that point on, the fruit will ripen inside a warm house. See below for ways to ripen unripe tomatoes. Bringing your tomato home, it's logical to think: It's already ripe, and I don't want it to spoil, so in the fridge it goes. The problem is that refrigerating your tomato will convert the sugars in itto starch, so it will taste mealy instead of amazing. Instead, keep tomatoes on the counter, as they appear in Neruda's poem, so they are sweet and juicy and easily accessible for slicing and eating. Or, as one local farm suggests, use them as a centerpiece for your dining table--After all, Impressionist painter Gauguin thought tomatoes on a table were lovely enough to paint.
Freshly picked tomatoes will store for up to one week at room temperature.
Ripening tomatoes: If your tomato is under ripe, store it in a paper bag, preferably with another ripe tomato or piece of fruit. The paper bag will create a warm environment (warmth is actually the key once they’re off the vine, not light), and the ripe fruit will emit ethylene gas, which will stimulate the under ripe tomato to ripen.