Research says cold storage stops tomatoes from making enzymes that are responsible for their auroma and taste
Putting tomatoes in the fridge can keep them fresh for a long period of time or extend their shelf life but it makes them tasteless too. That’s why fresh tomatoes are far more flavorful than frozen ones in the house.
Now, researchers from University of Florida have finally figured out why tomatoes lose some of their great taste in the fridge. They believe the answer lies in their genes. Researchers have found that chilling tomatoes at temperature below than 12 degrees Celsius turns off the enzymes responsible for making them smell and taste like a tomato. As a result of it, tomatoes may appear fresh and juicy but they are less flavorful than just-picked tomatoes.
“Commercial tomatoes are widely perceived by consumers as lacking flavor. A major part of that problem is a postharvest handling system that chills fruit. Low-temperature storage is widely used to slow ripening and reduce decay. However, chilling results in loss of flavor. Flavor-associated volatiles are sensitive to temperatures below 12 °C, and their loss greatly reduces flavor quality.” Study says.
To find out how long it takes for a tomato to disrupt its volatiles, researchers refrigerated tomatoes for one, three or seven days at 41 degree Fahrenheit and then allowed them to recover at room temperature (68 degrees Fahrenheit). Researchers found that after seven days of cold storage, tomatoes lost most of their enzymes that contribute to their taste and even recovery periods could not bring them back. However, storage of one or three days did not result in major genetic changes in tomatoes.
Next, the tomatoes were given to a group of volunteers and were asked them to rate their taste. Volunteer consumers rated the chilled tomatoes significantly lower than ones that had been stored at room temperature.
Low-temperature storage actually robs the taste of the fruit whether it happens in your kitchen fridge or industry's refrigerated trucks and storage rooms.
“Our work provides major insights into the effects of chilling on consumer liking, the flavor metabolome and transcriptome, as well as DNA methylation status,” says study.
“Transcripts for some key volatile synthesis enzymes and the most important ripening-associated transcription factors are greatly reduced in response to chilling.”