How do you store tomatoes so they last the longest?

Quick Answers

Here are some quick tips for storing tomatoes to keep them fresh for as long as possible:

  • Store tomatoes at room temperature – do not refrigerate them.
  • Keep them away from direct sunlight to avoid over-ripening.
  • Store stem-side down to prevent moisture loss.
  • Do not store tomatoes with ethylene-producing fruits like bananas.
  • Store green tomatoes separately from ripe tomatoes.
  • Use tomatoes within 2-3 days for maximum freshness and flavor.

Storing Ripe Tomatoes

For ripe, red tomatoes ready to eat, the ideal storage condition is at room temperature out of direct sunlight. The exact room temperature can vary depending on your climate, but somewhere between 55-70°F is usually best. Colder temperatures found in the refrigerator can negatively affect texture, color, and flavor. In fact, refrigeration below 50°F can cause tomatoes to lose their aromas and develop mealy, flavorless interiors. The chilling turns tomatoes from juicy and delicious to mushy and bland.

Here are some tips for getting the most mileage out of ripe tomatoes stored at room temperature:

  • Keep them away from direct sunlight, which can cause over-ripening. A shaded spot on the counter or pantry shelf works well.
  • Store stem-side facing down, as the stem scar has natural openings that can lead to moisture loss. This prevents the juicy interior from drying out.
  • Do not store tomatoes with bananas, melons, or other fruits/vegetables that produce ethylene gas. This ripening hormone will cause tomatoes to over-ripen faster.
  • Rinse tomatoes just before eating them, not before storing. Excess moisture promotes spoilage.
  • Avoid stacking tomatoes or letting them touch each other during storage. This can lead to bruising.
  • Use ripe tomatoes within 2-3 days for best flavor, texture, and juiciness.

With proper room temperature storage, ripe tomato shelf life can reach up to a week before they start deteriorating in quality and flavor. Check tomatoes daily and use up any that are over-ripe or show signs of mold or spoilage. The bottom line – let your taste buds guide you. If the tomato still tastes sweet and juicy, it’s still good to eat!

Storing Green Tomatoes

Green, unripe tomatoes require different storage conditions than ripe red tomatoes. At room temperature, green tomatoes may fail to ripen further and rot rather than developing full color and flavor. Refrigeration is an option for firm green tomatoes, but not ideal long-term.

Here are some tips for handling green tomatoes:

  • Store green tomatoes separately from ripe tomatoes, so the ethylene gas does not accelerate ripening.
  • You can refrigerate green tomatoes at 45-55°F for 2-3 weeks to pause the ripening process.
  • Let green tomatoes sit at room temperature for a day before eating after refrigeration. The cold negatively affects flavor.
  • Wrap green tomatoes individually in newspaper or paper towels before refrigerating. This prevents chilling injury.
  • Use green tomatoes quickly once refrigerated. Flavor and texture diminish the longer they are chilled.
  • Consider pickling, frying, or chutney as ways to use up green tomatoes.

Ideally, green tomatoes allowed to ripen slowly at room temperature result in the best flavor. But refrigeration can buy you some time if you end up with an abundance of unripe tomatoes.

Other Tomato Storage Methods

In addition to counter-top and refrigerated storage, there are some other methods that can help maximize tomato freshness and shelf life. Give these a try if you want your tomatoes to last as long as possible:

Hanging Whole Tomato Plants

If you grow tomatoes, you can hang entire intact plants from the rafters or cellar ceiling once peak season hits. Leave the tomatoes connected to the vine, and they may continue ripening over several weeks. The vine helps keep them hydrated longer than detached tomatoes stored alone. Make sure temperatures are in the 60-70°F range for optimal storage. This method works best with indeterminate tomato varieties that grow as vining plants.


Preserving tomatoes via mason jar canning lets you enjoy their taste long after the season is over. The canning process involves simmering jars of tomatoes in a water bath to sterilize and seal them. Acidic tomatoes can be safely canned using a tested recipe in a boiling water bath canner. Pressure canning is not required. Canned whole, crushed, or sauce tomatoes stay safe at room temperature for a year or more.


Many gardeners freeze extra tomatoes to preserve the summer’s bounty into fall and winter. Blanch tomatoes briefly in boiling water before freezing to deactivate enzymes that cause loss of flavor and texture in frozen tomatoes. Pack blanched tomatoes into freezer bags or containers, removing air. Freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.


Drying or dehydrating tomatoes is another preservation method. An electric food dehydrator works best for safely drying tomatoes into crispy, concentrated tomato chips. Dried tomatoes packed in oil last for months and add concentrated tomato flavor to everything from salads to pizza. Oven-drying tomatoes is riskier due to inconsistent temperatures that allow bacteria to flourish.


Curing tomatoes refers to storing nearly ripe green tomatoes at 55-70°F and 85% humidity for 1-4 weeks. This warmth and humidity simulate late summer conditions and allow the tomatoes to ripen slowly with full development of sugars and flavors. Curing tomatoes this way at the end of the season results in a flavorful finished product.

Tomato Storage Locations

Where you store your tomatoes can be just as important as how you store them. Here are the best and worst places to keep tomatoes:

Pantry or Cupboard

A pantry, cupboard, or closet works well for tomatoes due to the relatively stable sheltered temperatures. Avoid direct sunlight streaming into the pantry during the day. A dark area is better to prevent overheating.

Kitchen Counter

The kitchen counter is a convenient place for tomato storage since they’ll be handy for cooking or eating. Just make sure to avoid direct sunlight and proximity to ethylene-producing fruit like bananas and melons.

Fruit Bowl

It may seem natural to put tomatoes in a decorative fruit bowl, but this is a bad idea! The ethylene gases emitted by other fruits causes tomatoes to ripen too fast. And the stacked, touching tomatoes may bruise and deteriorate faster. Leave tomatoes off the fruit bowl.


Direct sun exposure and heat on a windowsill can lead to rapid over-ripening and deterioration of tomatoes. Keep them away from the windows.

In a Salad Drawer

While refrigerator drawers seem a sensible place for produce, tomatoes suffer chilling injury at these cold temps leading to texture and flavor damage. Store tomatoes at room temperature instead.

Root Cellar

For those with a root cellar, this is an ideal place to store tomatoes long-term thanks to the stable cooler temperatures and high humidity. Cured green tomatoes also do well in root cellars.

Garage or Basement

A garage or unheated basement offers too much temperature variability for proper tomato storage. The extremes and fluctuations lead to faster deterioration.

In a Bowl of Water

Sitting tomatoes in a shallow bowl of water seems like it would keep them hydrated, but this promotes microbial growth and sogginess. Their waxy skin protects against needed moisture loss, so avoid submerging tomatoes.

How to Tell If Stored Tomatoes Have Gone Bad

Even with the best storage methods, tomatoes have a relatively short shelf life and can show signs of spoilage after a week or two. Here are some ways to identify tomatoes that have gone bad and should be discarded:

  • Wrinkling – Deep wrinkles in the skin indicate dehydration and nutrient breakdown.
  • Mold – Fuzzy white, green, or black mold growing on the skin.
  • Pitted skin – Sunken, soft spots show microbial decay.
  • Bruising – Large squishy spots from impact indicate cell breakdown.
  • Odd coloring – Unripe green areas or translucent skin means rotting.
  • Strange smell – Foul, unpleasant odors signal spoilage.
  • Unfirm texture – Squishy, mushy tomatoes are past their prime.

Trust your senses – if a stored tomato looks, smells or feels unpleasant, it should be discarded. When in doubt, throw it out. Moldy or rotten tomatoes can harbor bacteria and make you sick. Stick to fresh, firm tomatoes with bright color and throw away any past-prime specimens.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best temperature to store tomatoes?

The ideal storage temperature for ripe tomatoes is 55-70°F – typical comfortable room temperatures. Refrigeration below 50°F damages texture, flavor, and ripening enzymes.

Where should you not store tomatoes?

Avoid storing tomatoes in direct sunlight, in the refrigerator, next to ethylene-producing fruits, in high humidity, or near extreme temperature fluctuations. All of these lead to faster deterioration.

Can you store tomatoes and bananas together?

No, bananas give off high levels of ethylene, a ripening gas. This will cause tomatoes stored together with bananas to over-ripen quickly.

How long do tomatoes last at room temperature?

Properly stored ripe tomatoes kept at room temperature typically last around 2-3 days at peak quality. Handle time varies based on maturity and variety. Check tomatoes daily for signs of spoilage.

Do green tomatoes go in the fridge?

You can carefully refrigerate mature, unripe green tomatoes short-term to pause ripening. But flavor and texture will be better if allowed to ripen at room temp when possible. Refrigerate green tomatoes separately from ripe red tomatoes.

Is it better to store tomatoes stem-side up or down?

Always place tomatoes stem-side down during storage, as the scar left by the stem can allow moisture loss if facing upward. Storing upside down keeps the juices in.


Storing tomatoes properly is key to preserving their fresh from the vine flavor. Keep ripe tomatoes at room temperature around 55-70°F out of direct sun. Refrigeration negatively affects their taste and texture. Handle green tomatoes separately, as chilling inhibits ripening. With proper storage methods, you can enjoy tomato goodness a little while longer after bringing them home from the market or garden. Just be sure to check them daily and use up any that are past their prime.

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