How to Store Home-Grown Tomatoes

Overview

Tomatoes are never more flavorful and precious than when they have been grown in your own garden. Store-bought tomatoes represent varieties selected for their ability to withstand rough handling and long shipping times. Your garden tomatoes will be more sensitive to damage and require special handling if you want to enjoy them at their peak. Whether you collect your fruits to save them from harsh conditions or to cut down on the number of trips you make into the garden, these tips will help you preserve the condition of your tomatoes.

Step 1

Sort your tomatoes by level of ripeness and store fruits of a similar shade together in groups. Store damaged tomatoes separately and monitor them for decay. Store the tomatoes in a moderately humid environment where the temperature is between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2

Situate tomatoes with the stem end facing up. The meat that surrounds the stem--called the shoulder--is sensitive to pressure and can become damaged from the weight of the fruit.

Step 3

Place the tomatoes out of direct sunlight. Sunlight can ripen some areas of the fruit too quickly, faster than the portion of the fruit facing away from the light. If you must store them in direct sun, turn your tomatoes once or twice daily.

Step 4

Store a ripe tomato with those you want to ripen to hasten the ripening process. This will allow the ethylene gas released by the ripe tomato to influence the progress of the unripe tomatoes. Storing fruits together in a paper bag will help trap more of the gas near the fruits.

Step 5

Store large numbers of green tomatoes conveniently by wrapping them in paper and placing them in a box in one or two layers. An alternative method for bringing in a crop when frost threatens involves pulling the whole plant and hanging it in a protected area, out of the weather. Spot check your tomato stores twice weekly to watch for rot, insects and other issues.

Tips and Warnings

  • Keep tomatoes out of the refrigerator. While storing tomatoes in the refrigerator will not render them inedible, tomatoes quickly begin to lose their desired flavor in the cold, dry conditions of this form of storage.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper or newspaper
  • Cardboard box

References

  • Clemson Cooperative Extension: Using & Storing Tomatoes
  • University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension: Storing Tomatoes-Counter or Refrigerator?
  • Purdue University Extension: What's the Best Way to Ripen and Store Tomatoes and Green Peppers Indoors?
  • University of Illinois Extension: Watch Your Garden Grow-Tomato
  • Michigan State University Extension: Storing Tomatoes

Who Can Help

  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Tomatoes
  • Purdue University Extension: Tomatoes Loaded with Health Benefits
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Harvesting and Storing Home Garden Vegetables
  • University of Missouri Extension: Vegetable Harvest and Storage
Keywords: tomato storage, tomato harvest, ripening tomatoes

About this Author

Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years' experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.