5 Common Mistakes that Ruin Your Fresh Tomatoes—and How to Avoid Them

by Amber on September 6, 2011

Love heirloom tomatoes? Feel like crying every time one turns rotten before you’ve had a chance to eat it? Problem is, many of us are mistreating our poor tomatoes and don’t even realize it. Here are 5 handy hints to help you enjoy those fresh garden tomatoes.

Storing heirloom tomatoes upside down keep them happy and unblemished.

1)      If you’re a gardener, don’t yank an heirloom tomato off the vine.

When removing heirloom tomatoes from the vine use scissors to cut them from the stem. Heirloom tomatoes have deep stems, so if you try to yank an heirloom tomato from the plant, you’ll wind up leaving half your tomato behind. Further, heirlooms require a gentle touch. Cut the stem and allow the tomato to drop softly into your open palm.

2)      Don’t stack tomatoes on top of each other.

While those rock-hard, orange tomatoes at the supermarket are bred to resist any type of damage from impact, most tomatoes, especially heirlooms, are prone to splitting if you simply look at them the wrong way. Their fragile skin isn’t meant for stacking. In fact, when I place them in my harvesting basket, I make sure there’s space between every single tomato. No touching at all.

Leave space between each tomato. Never stack them on top of each other.

3)      Don’t put your tomatoes in the fridge!

Chilling tomatoes actually renders them tasteless. It eliminates many of the volatile chemicals that produce the fruit’s flavor. While I fully appreciate the desire to extend the life of your happy tomato, you’re actually sentencing it to death by putting it in your fridge.

Fresh garden tomatoes, particularly the heirloom variety, need to be eaten or processed within days of being picked: 1 or 2 days, not 5. Eat them raw in a salad, turn them into sauce for winter, or give them away to eager neighbors who’ve been eyeing those beauties over the fence. Don’t wait.

4)      Don’t store your tomato on its rump.

Heirloom tomatoes are like babies—they have sensitive bottoms. The soft skin can’t bear the weight of these heavy fruits. Instead, they prefer to relax on their heads: stem side down. I place mine upside down on a cooling rack. The holes allow a perfect place for any long stems to poke through so you don’t have to rest the tomato on its side (also a no-no).

Use a cooling rack to store tomatoes upside down. This allows space for longer stems.

5)      Don’t wait to enjoy your tomatoes.

There’s nothing better than a just-picked heirloom tomato! If you’re buying from a local farmers’ market, only buy what you intend to eat within a few days. These tasty treats just don’t last. Meet them on their terms—I promise, it will improve your relationship.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate September 6, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Amber, these tips are very helpful. Thank you.

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admin September 7, 2011 at 7:43 am

Thanks, Kate! And thanks for stopping by. Hope you are doing well with your patio garden. :)

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Rebecca ~ Sweet Baby Yams September 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I just threw away some heirloom tomatoes because they went bad. I wish I would have read this earlier in the week. I’m definitely going to remember these tips. Great post!

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The Rowdy Chowgirl September 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Great tips! Storing tomatoes upside down is a new one for me. I’m going to give it a try!

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admin September 7, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Thanks, Rowdy Chowgirl! Let me know if it helps.

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Pam September 14, 2011 at 2:40 pm

My mom (who shares home with me) and I are constantly at odds about storing tomatoes. She will put a tomato in the fridge in a New York heartbeat! Drives me crazy. I am printing, cutting, and taping this article onto our fridge!

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admin September 15, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Pam, Haha! Glad I could help settle the disagreement. Good luck with future tomatoes!!

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Kendra September 26, 2011 at 7:02 am

Amber love the new look of the site! I have been by in awhile.

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admin September 26, 2011 at 8:18 am

Thanks for stopping by, Kendra! :) Glad you like the site.

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Aubergine September 10, 2012 at 8:58 am

This is extremely helpful and informative! We have gazillions of tomatoes in our garden and on our kitchen counter, and I have to admit after reading this that I am guilty of heirloom mistreatment! I will definitely be following these tips carefully from now on since it breaks my heart every time I have to throw a tomato out.

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Amber September 10, 2012 at 9:15 am

Another tomato saved! :) That’s what I like to hear! Thanks for reading, Aubergine!

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jerry pritikin September 17, 2012 at 4:54 am

I knew this way back in the 1940’s! My dad eaned the moniker as the “Tomato King” of Chicago’s South Water Street Produce Market. He didn’t always have the right answer… He was offered the opportunity to get into the frozen food business back then, and he said why would anybody but frozen food, when you could buy fresh fruits and vegetables?

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chesty puller September 7, 2013 at 8:13 am

I had a couple of tomatoes go soft on the bottom when I had them stored stem up :( Thanks for the tip :)

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admin September 25, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Thanks for this lovely summer tribute! :)

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