Should tomatoes on the vine be refrigerated?

Quick Answer

Tomatoes on the vine can be refrigerated for short-term storage, but it is not recommended. Refrigerating tomatoes causes them to lose their flavor and texture. Room temperature storage is best for maintaining taste and texture.

Storing Tomatoes on the Vine

Tomatoes on the vine, also known as grape tomatoes or cluster tomatoes, are small tomatoes that grow in bunches similar to grapes. They are a popular variety prized for their sweet, intense tomato flavor.

When it comes to storage, tomatoes on the vine have special considerations:

Room Temperature is Best

Storing tomatoes on the vine at room temperature is ideal for preserving flavor and texture. Cold temperatures inside the refrigerator cause tomatoes to lose their aromatic compounds and become mealy in texture.[1]

Room temperature conditions keep tomatoes tasting fresh. Aim for temps between 55°F-70°F. Kitchen counters or dining tables work well.

Short Term Refrigeration

While flavor and texture suffer in the fridge, refrigeration can extend shelf life for short term storage. If tomatoes on the vine need to be kept for longer than 2-3 days, the refrigerator can buy you an extra couple days.

To refrigerator properly, store tomato clusters in a breathable container like a paper bag. Keep them towards the front top of the fridge in the warmest area. Avoid storing them long term for over a week.

Avoid Freezing

Freezing causes tomatoes on the vine to become mushy and lose flavor. The high water content causes ice crystals to rupture cell structures during freezing.[2]

Unless cooking or canning, it’s best to avoid freezing grape tomatoes. Thaw and use frozen tomatoes within 2 months before quality declines further.

Optimal Storage Conditions

To maintain peak eating quality of tomatoes on the vine, optimal storage conditions matter. The ideal environment includes:

Room Temperature Around 70°F

Warm room temperature is preferred. Kitchen counters maintain temps in the best range. Cooler temps below 55°F start damaging texture and taste.

High Humidity Above 90% RH

Being a highly perishable fruit, tomatoes last longer in humid conditions. The ambient humidity of kitchens usually provides enough moisture. Actively humidifying storage areas can further extend shelf life.

Out of Sunlight

Tomatoes are sensitive to direct sunlight. UV exposure causes tomatoes to over-ripen and become mealy. Store tomato clusters in shaded areas away from windows and harsh lighting.

Good Air Circulation

Good airflow prevents moisture accumulation which can quicken decay. Store tomatoes with plenty of space around them. Avoid sealing them in enclosed containers or plastic bags.

Ripening Tomatoes on the Vine

Tomatoes on the vine are often sold needing further ripening. Here are tips for ripening them properly:

Leave Tomatoes Attached to Vine

The connected vine helps ripening occur gradually and evenly. Individual separated tomatoes tend to ripen erratically. Leave grape tomatoes clustered on their vines.

Keep at Room Temperature

Room temp ripening between 65°-75°F works best. Kitchen counters or tables maintain temps in this range. Monitor for any drops below 55°F.

Encourage Air Circulation

Place vines in open bowls or colanders so air can circulate freely around the tomatoes. Covering them traps ethylene gas which causes uneven ripening.

Add a Ripening Agent (Optional)

Placing tomatoes in a paper bag or box with a ripe banana or apple adds extra ethylene, speeding up ripening. Check daily to avoid over-ripening.

How Long Do Tomatoes on the Vine Last?

With proper storage, tomatoes on the vine typically last:

Room Temperature

  • Countertop: 3-10 days
  • Fruit bowl: 5-10 days


  • Refrigerator: 5-14 days

General tips for maximizing shelf life include:[3]

– Store at 55°-70°F, avoid refrigeration
– Keep tomatoes on the vine, don’t remove
– Maintain humidity around 90% RH
– Allow good airflow and circulation
– Keep out of direct sunlight

Properly stored, tomatoes on the vine should retain good eating quality for up to 2 weeks. Refrigeration extends life slightly but compromises taste and texture over time. For best flavor and texture, use within 3-10 days.

How to Tell if Tomatoes on the Vine are Bad

Signs that tomatoes on the vine have gone bad include:

Mold Growth

Grey fuzzy patches or black dotting indicate mold. Mold spreads quickly to other tomatoes. Discard moldy vines immediately.

Wrinkling Skin

As moisture evaporates, skins become shriveled and wrinkled. Older tomatoes show loose baggy skin.

Mealy Texture

Inside, overripe tomatoes become soft and mealy. Healthy ripe tomatoes feel juicy and firm.

Lack of Juice

Cutting into a rotten tomato shows no free juices. Good tomatoes release clear, abundant liquid when sliced.

Off Colors

As tomatoes deteriorate, their color fades and dulls. You may see odd colors like orange, yellow or brown.

Off Aromas

Fresh tomatoes smell earthy, sweet and tomatoey. Foul odors indicate spoilage. Discard tomatoes with unpleasant or vinegar smells.

Storing Cut Tomatoes on the Vine

Once tomato clusters are cut into, they have open wounds vulnerable to spoilage. To store cut tomatoes on the vine:

Refrigerate Below 40°F

The exposed flesh requires refrigerator temperatures to slow microbial growth. Use cut tomatoes within 3-5 days.

Submerge in Water

Sitting cut-side down in a bowl of water limits air exposure. Change the water daily to keep clean.

Use Acidulated Water

Water with a bit of vinegar or lemon juice added helps prevent bacterial growth on cut surfaces.

Keep Tomatoes Attached to Vine

Leaving cut tomatoes clustered on the vine helps preserve freshness compared to loose separated tomatoes.

Avoid Freezing

Even if vines look intact, freezing causes damage to cut tomato tissues. Refrigeration is the best method for cut grape tomatoes.

How to Freeze Tomatoes on the Vine

While fresh taste and texture suffer, tomatoes on the vine can be frozen whole for later use:

Wash and Dry Thoroughly

Clean tomatoes completely and pat dry. Extra moisture encourages detrimental ice crystal formation.

Leave Tomatoes Clustered on Vines

Keeping grapes clustered together helps maintain structure better than individual loose tomatoes.

Space Out Vine Clusters

Lay vines flat and spaced apart on a sheet pan or cookie tray. Avoid clumping them together in a pile.

Quick Freeze

Use a freezer with a quick freeze feature so tomatoes freeze rapidly. Slow freezing causes excess ice crystal damage.

Transfer to Freezer Bags

Once frozen solid, remove from trays and package tightly in freezer bags or airtight containers. Exclude as much air as possible.

Use Within 2 Months

Eat frozen tomatoes within 1-2 months before further quality loss. They’ll be soft and muted in flavor when thawed.

How to Store Tomatoes on the Vine for Canning

When canning tomato products like sauce, paste or salsas, grape tomatoes on the vine need proper pre-canning storage:

Pick Tomatoes at Peak Ripeness

Canning accentuates flavors, so choose perfectly ripened, rich tasting tomatoes for best results.

Hold at Room Temperature

Keep freshly picked tomatoes at warm room temp before canning. Avoid refrigerating or chilling tomatoes.

Use Within 2 Days

Process freshly harvested tomatoes for canning within 48 hours for best flavor and texture.

Keep Vines Intact

Leave grape tomatoes clustered on vines until ready to wash and prep for recipes. Avoid damaging or bruising.

Sort Out Damaged Tomatoes

Check for and discard any tomatoes with nicks, bruises, mold or other defects before canning.

Rinse Just Before Use

Wash tomatoes right before cooking or canning. Early washing causes premature deterioration.

How to Store Tomato Vine Cuttings

To regrow tomatoes from vines or save seeds, cut vines require careful storage:

Trim Cuttings to 6 inches

Take 6 inch cuttings from vigorous healthy vines. Choose stems with lots of leaves.

Strip Off Lower Leaves

Remove leaves from the lower 2 inches of the stem. This bare stem section will root.

Place in a Jar of Water

Keep cuttings upright in a glass jar filled with 1-2 inches of clean water.

Change Water Every 2 Days

Replenish water to prevent bacterial growth. Use room temperature filtered or distilled water.

Provide Bright Light

Sit vine cuttings in a spot receiving 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. A sunny windowsill works well.

Watch for Root Growth

Check lower stems for the appearance of white roots after 1-2 weeks. Once well rooted, plant in soil.

Refrigerate for Seed Saving

To save seeds from fully ripe tomatoes, store dried seeded pulp in the refrigerator until fermenting and rinsing seeds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you put tomatoes on the vine in the fridge?

It’s best not to refrigerate tomatoes on the vine. Cold temperatures damage their texture, aroma and flavor. Store at room temp for the highest quality.

Do tomatoes on the vine need to be refrigerated after cutting?

Yes, cut tomatoes on the vine should be refrigerated below 40°F to slow deterioration. Use within 3-5 days. Leave attached to vines if possible.

Can you freeze tomatoes on the vine?

Tomatoes on the vine can be frozen but the quality declines. Thaw and use within 1-2 months. Colder freezer temperatures below 0°F preserve better.

How long do tomatoes on the vine last at room temperature?

Properly stored at 55°-70°F, tomatoes on the vine typically last 5-10 days at room temp. Check for mold, wrinkling and other signs of spoilage.

Do tomatoes on the vine need to be kept on the counter or can they be refrigerated?

Counter storage is best, refrigeration harms flavor and texture. Only refrigerate tomatoes on the vine for short term storage up to 5-7 days maximum.


In summary, tomatoes on the vine are best kept at room temperature and high humidity. Refrigeration is okay short-term but compromises quality. Let tomatoes ripen on the vine before use. Check for wrinkling, mold and other signs of deterioration. With proper post-harvest handling, tomatoes on the vine remain fresh and tasty for 1-2 weeks. Store cut, frozen or canned tomatoes using methods that limit texture and nutrient loss.

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