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5 Tips for Saving Fresh Tomatoes

There are numerous ways to save fresh tomatoes, but sometimes the best option is to eat them. They're delicious! See more heirloom tomato pictures.
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Bringing home fresh produce can be really frustrating. Too often, fruits and veggies deteriorate mere days after purchase, leaving would-be eaters aggravated and stuck cleaning up a mushy -- maybe even moldy -- mess. As a general rule, it's best to eat any produce as quickly as possible after harvest because nutritional value and flavor go downhill pretty quickly afterward. Since those are the two main characteristics most of us look for in tomatoes, it pays to eat them sooner rather than later.

Before we spill the beans on what you should do to keep tomatoes fresh, you need to learn what not to do. Above all, never refrigerate whole tomatoes. Doing so will ruin the texture of the fruit (yes, tomatoes are fruits) and turn firm, red orbs into withered, mealy blobs. Plus, colder temperatures put a halt to the activities of flavor-producing enzymes within the tomatoes, totally impairing the ever-so-scientific "yummy" factor.

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Read the next page to learn what method of saving fresh tomatoes isn't just for the birds.

Roasted tomatoes offer a unique flavor all their own.
Roasted tomatoes offer a unique flavor all their own.
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Roasting isn't just for chickens! In fact, tomatoes roast exceptionally well, acquiring a slightly smoky flavor during the process. You can store the finished product in the refrigerator for up to a week. (Yes, it's OK to stick roasted tomatoes in the fridge -- it's only raw tomatoes you have to worry about.) Anything left over can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.

The best candidates for roasting are Roma or plum tomatoes, as well as whole cherry and grape varieties. Simply slice larger tomatoes in half, lengthwise. Next, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and place the larger halves with the cut side facing up. Be sure to sprinkle them with salt and pepper and drizzle lightly with canola or olive oil. Then roast them in the oven for roughly 45 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit or until the edges begin to turn golden in color. Enjoy immediately, in a few days or even months down the road!

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Tomatoes hold onto their nutritional value and flavor when they're frozen. If you have extras, go ahead and freeze them immediately after bringing them home. All you need to do to prepare them is take the core out using a knife or corer. That way, the tomatoes will be easier to peel after they've been defrosted. Of course, you don't have to keep them whole. You can also slice, puree or cut them into chunks. Just make sure each section is separated by wax paper.

Often, tomato-growers have unripened crop left on the vines when the weather starts to turn chilly. You don't have to call it a day on your green tomatoes -- stick them in the freezer to save them from the cold! Simply pick and slice them, then separate the individual slices with freezer paper and keep them on ice until you're ready to turn them into something delicious. May we suggest fried green tomatoes or green tomato pie?

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All you need turn green tomatoes red is a standard brown paper bag. It's important to make sure they're not touching, however.
All you need turn green tomatoes red is a standard brown paper bag. It's important to make sure they're not touching, however.
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For the short term, properly storing tomatoes can increase their longevity. Although a bowl on the counter is fine for a few days, many people swear by specialized bags made expressly for the purpose of keeping fruits and veggies fresher, longer. Plus, the bags are reusable, so they're both Earth- and wallet-friendly!

If your weather forecast shows an imminent dip in the temps, it's possible to protect your green tomatoes and turn them red in the process. All you have to do is pick and wrap each tomato individually in newspaper, tissue paper or an ordinary brown paper sack to keep them from touching. Then store them in a location that steadily stays around 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (12.7 to 15.5 degrees Celsius). Keep a close eye on the tomatoes by checking every few days to make they're not becoming overly ripe. Once they're nice and red, either eat or freeze them for future use.

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Although many of us would have it differently, tomatoes are only in season for a portion of the year. The rest of the time, they're either scarce or expensive. Well-prepared chefs often choose to can some of their summer crop for use in off-season months. Canning tomatoes is surprisingly easy and affordable, and doing it yourself eliminates exposure to the resin and chemicals found in some commercially canned tomatoes.

The best tomatoes for canning will be full of flavor, meaty and not so big that they can't fit through the opening of the jar you're using (you can just as easily can chopped or halved tomatoes, though). Start by boiling jars for about 15 minutes to sterilize them. Put tomatoes in the jars, taking care not to pack them too full. Then add lemon juice at a ratio of about two tablespoons per quart of tomatoes. Doing so helps keep them from spoiling. Re-boil the sealed, filled jars to complete to sterilization process, then save them to eat at your leisure.

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Like regular pickles, pickled tomatoes have a long shelf life.
Like regular pickles, pickled tomatoes have a long shelf life.
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Although it might sound daunting, pickling tomatoes is actually quite simple. Plus, they make excellent and nutritious snacks that can easily last up to a month if refrigerated.

To pickle green tomatoes, all you need are jars and some brine, which is made by boiling water and vinegar with pickling or sea salt (but you can add additional seasonings and additives if you wish). Simply quarter the tomatoes and place them in covered, brine-filled jars for about a week. Sounds easy enough, right?

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Pickled red tomatoes differ slightly from the green variety because the finished product is not as firm or crunchy. Before jarring them with brine, red tomatoes should be blanched, as it firms up the interior flesh and loosens the skin. To do this, simply dip the tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then put each one immediately into cold water. The peels should easily come off when you're ready to eat.

Fresh tomatoes are always in demand, and these methods allow you to enjoy them all year round.

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