It’s known to cut the risk of getting cancer. It’s a rich source of vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum vitamin K, copper, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, vitamin B6, folate, niacin, vitamin E and phosphorus. It’s also a great addition to a lot of hearty dishes particularly in Italian, Mexican, and Mediterranean cuisines. Yes, we’re talking about the superfood that’s found in virtually any kitchen – the tomato.

But wait, it has an Achilles heel – the cold – store it below 12 degrees Celcius and it loses its flavour. This is what a study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida found when they investigated why commercial tomatoes are flavourless compared to the naturally sun-ripened ones.

tomato

Although it’s classified as a fruit, tomatoes are used mainly for savoury dishes instead of dessert because they bring not just sweet but a lot of other flavours that are pleasing to the palate. A tomatoes rich nutritional content may make it a popular food choice in a healthy diet but its flavour is what makes it a staple in any kitchen.

If you’re going to eat more of this superfruit, then it’s best that you let it keep its flavour. For obvious and practical reasons, people keep their tomatoes stored in the fridge to stretch its shelf-life. Unfortunately, chilling them in the fridge causes genetic changes in the fruit, which makes them lose their flavour. It turns out that the low temperature significantly reduces the activity of enzyme-producing genes in the fruit. Most of these enzymes are what makes them sweeter and gives them that delicious aroma we smell when tomatoes are cooking. A good tomato, to be flavourful, needs a symphony of 30 or more chemicals in the right balance. Chilling them alters this balance – permanently.

tomato_harvest

Commercial tomatoes are picked early then gassed to hasten the ripening process before they are shipped to supermarkets. They are chilled to keep their appearance of freshness. They do keep longer than fresh tomatoes picked at just the right time, but the trade off is that they lose their flavour.

But fret not, tomatoes, when left to ripen in its natural course, actually have a decent shelf life of a week or more. Just buy fresh tomatoes and place them on your table or in a shady area of your home and they’ll do just fine for a week. Besides, fresh is always better.

Just as the choice of food is the leading contributor to diseases like cancer, diabetes, and hypertension, to name a few – it’s also the remedy for it. And the tomato is at the battlefront with all its nutrients and rich flavours. If you’re eating them, you might as well enjoy their full flavour! So chill and bite into that red tomato – just don’t chill it in the fridge. :)

Read more about this in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences journal…