Are your tomatoes bland? Take them out of the fridge. A new study has shown storing tomatoes in cool air reduces their flavour.
The cold case was solved by scientists from the US and China, who found that while the sugar and acidity of the tomatoes don’t change, the genes that control flavour do.
They write that cold storage is used to extend the shelf life of agricultural fruits, and as a result, consumers are often left dissatisfied.
The work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
To find out why refrigerated tomatoes lose their tangy bite, Harry Klee from the University of Florida and colleagues chilled different varieties of red ripe tomatoes at 5 °C for one, three, or seven days.
Then they moved them to a warmer spot at 20 °C for either one or three days.
Even after a stint in the warmth, the tomatoes’ taste barely improved.
So where does the taste go?
When tomatoes languish in cold air, the molecules responsible for flavour – called volatiles – drop by as much as 65%.
Volatiles stem from amino acids, fatty acids, and red, yellow and orange plant pigments, and certain genes are responsible for their production.
Klee and his crew zoomed into the tomatoes’ DNA code and saw that chilling causes these genes to produce fewer molecules.
A 76-person-strong fleet of tomato taste testers were also used and helped determine consumer satisfaction.
One group tried the seven-day chilled tomatoes, and another ate tomatoes harvested the day before. As expected, their reports showed the chilled tomatoes were nowhere near as tasty as the fresh batch.
Anthea Batsakis is a freelance journalist in Melbourne, Australia.
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