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  • You may have been told that putting tomatoes in your fridge will ruin them.

  • It turns out, that's kind of true.

  • Scientists have shown that reducing a tomato's temperature to below 20°C alters its gene expression,

  • which in turn reduces its yummy tomato smell.

  • So putting tomatoes in the fridge actually does make a lot of their ripe, juicy flavor disappear!

  • You might think a food's flavor is determined by the specific mix of chemicals that lands on your tongue.

  • And it ispartially.

  • But by definition, flavor is the overall impression you get from consuming a food or beverage,

  • an impression which results from both taste and smells.

  • There are only a handful of distinctive tastes that your taste buds can differentiate:

  • sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami.

  • Scents, on the other hand, are practically limitless.

  • Some research suggests the average person's nose can distinguish between one trillion

  • different odors, and all that variety could explain why scent is the largest determinant of flavor.

  • It's like when you were a kid and your parents made you eat something you didn't like,

  • and you would hold your nose while you downed it.

  • Plugging your nose and blocking the smell of something is actually enough to

  • seriously diminish the flavor because flavor is so reliant on smell.

  • Which brings us back to those tomatoes.

  • A tomato's flavor is the result of a combination of tasty sugars and acids, as well as chemicals

  • called aroma compounds, the molecules that easily leap into the air to give things their distinct smell.

  • And even after picking, the fruit continues to make some of these and break down others.

  • It's still full of living cells, so the overall flavor of the tomato can change over time.

  • In a 2016 study, when researchers put ripe tomatoes in the fridge for 7 days,

  • volunteers rated the taste of those chilled tomatoes as much less yummy than fresh ones.

  • But the sugar and acid levels, those key components of taste, didn't differ between the fresh and chilled fruits.

  • What did change were those aroma compounds: refrigerated tomatoes produced 65% less of them.

  • That led the team to conclude that the change in the tomato's flavor is caused by a reduction in its odor molecules,

  • not due to a change in its actual taste!

  • When they dug deeper, they found that the refrigerated tomatoes had reduced expression

  • of genes related to the synthesis of certain molecules, including branched amino acids,

  • fatty acids and esters, three key compounds that are important for aroma compound synthesis.

  • The researchers hypothesized that this could be an evolutionary response for conserving

  • energy when it is cold, though they'd need further evidence to confirm that idea.

  • It's not just tomatoes that are ruined by refrigeration, of course.

  • You might have noticed that a lot of different fruits seem to taste worse after a stint in

  • the fridge, but this is generally thought to be because lower temperatures halt the ripening process.

  • As a fruit ripens, it produces different aroma compounds, and it gains sugars and other tasty molecules.

  • So the less ripe a fruit is, the less yummy it will be.

  • But if you take these fruits out of the fridge and put them on the counter,

  • they will start ripening again and recover most of their flavor.

  • And once they're ripe, you're supposed to be able to put them back into the cold

  • to keep them at that tasty sweet point for longer.

  • But the researchers in this study weren't starting with under-ripe tomatoes

  • they were starting with ripe ones.

  • So the loss of flavor wasn't because they prevented them from becoming fully ripe.

  • And taking the tomatoes out of the fridge didn't fully fix things.

  • So basically, there's no point in a tomato's ripening process where you can refrigerate them without losing flavor.

  • It's possible, or even likely, this kind of cold-induced flavor loss happens in other ripe fruits, too.

  • But as of yet, no one has really looked.

  • Either way, if you want the best-tasting produce, you should probably leave your fruits on the

  • counter until they are ripe, and never ever put your tomatoes in the fridge.

  • Though, if you really want the tastiest tomatoes, you should probably go for more colorful ones,

  • because the rosiest red tomatoes you see in stores just don't taste as good.

  • Check out our episode on Why Tomatoes Are So Bland to find out why!

  • And as always, thanks for watching, and don't forget to subscribe!

You may have been told that putting tomatoes in your fridge will ruin them.

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Why You Should Never Put Tomatoes in the Fridge!

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    Annie Chien posted on 2019/09/16
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