Do your taste buds a big juicy favour and take your tomatoes out of the fridge. Right. Now.
Why? It’s been brought to our attention that cold temperatures reduce the flavour of the fruit. We have the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences to thank for the taste-changing breakthrough about to enhance your salad.
Scientists from the US and China found the genes which control the flavour of the tomato are altered by cool air, despite the sugar and acidity remaining the same. The revealing experiment, undertaken by Harry Klee from the University of Florida and his colleagues, saw different varieties of red ripe tomatoes being chilled at 5°C for one, three, or seven days. They were then moved to a warmer 20°C for either one or three days. The poor tomatoes barely improved in taste.
Klee got the microscope on the tomatoes’ DNA code and saw that chilling them caused the genes to produce less of the molecules responsible for flavour. The molecules – called volatiles – stem from amino acids, fatty acids, and red, yellow and orange plant pigments, and their production can drop by as much as 65% when the tomato gets chilly.
We’re all aware that fruits and vegetables are stored in the fridge to extend shelf life, both at home and before they reach the supermarkets. But the people committing these storage sins are robbing poor consumers of deliciousness. Part of the study included putting tomato taste testers up to the task of determining consumer satisfaction.
One group ate tomatoes which had been chilled for seven days, and another was given tomatoes freshly harvested the day before. I don’t think I really need to say it, but the reports showed the chilled tomatoes had nothing on the fresh batch.
Although the cynic in me leads me to question why the second group wasn’t given seven-day-old non-chilled tomatoes to make it a fairer comparison, I still think anyone who has tomatoes in the fridge after reading this needs to have a long hard think about their life choices.