Here's How To Store Tomatoes To Extend Their Shelf Life

Did you know that tomatoes spoil easily in summer? The warm temperatures accelerate the ripening process, causing tomatoes to become overripe and soft quickly. High humidity levels can lead to deterioration by promoting the growth of mould and bacteria, which can cause tomatoes to spoil even faster.

When exposed to heat, tomato enzymes break down their cellular structure, leading to a loss of firmness and an increase in susceptibility to bruising and rotting. Additionally, the increased moisture from humidity can create an ideal environment for fungal growth, such as botrytis (grey mould) and other spoilage organisms.

Improper storage can exacerbate these issues. Leaving tomatoes in direct sunlight or warm kitchen areas can hasten their spoilage. Even when stored in the refrigerator, which slows down the ripening process, tomatoes can suffer from changes in texture and flavour if kept too cold for too long.

To extend the shelf life of tomatoes in summer, it's essential to store them properly. Keeping them at room temperature away from direct sunlight until they are fully ripe, and then refrigerating them, can help manage their ripening and reduce spoilage. Here are some basic ways to store tomatoes during summer so they last longer.


Refrigeration is a common method to extend the shelf life of tomatoes. For whole tomatoes, refrigeration can slow down the ripening process. It’s best to place them in the crisper drawer, ideally in a paper bag or wrapped in a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. This method may slightly affect their texture and flavour, so it's recommended to let them come to room temperature before consuming. For cut tomatoes, always refrigerate them in an airtight container to prevent bacterial growth, and use them within a few days for the best quality.


Freezing tomatoes is an excellent way to preserve them for an extended period. This method works best for tomatoes that will be used in cooked dishes, as freezing can change their texture. Tomatoes can be frozen whole, sliced, or chopped. After washing and drying, place them on a baking sheet to freeze individually before transferring them to a freezer-safe bag or container. Alternatively, making a tomato puree or sauce before freezing can save space and time when needed for recipes. Remember to label the containers with the date to keep track of storage time.


Canning is a traditional method that can preserve tomatoes for months or even years. This process involves sealing tomatoes in jars and processing them in a water bath or pressure canner to kill bacteria and prevent spoilage. Begin by blanching the tomatoes to remove their skins, then pack them into sterilized jars, adding lemon juice or citric acid to ensure safe acidity levels. Follow recommended processing times for your canner type and altitude. Properly sealed jars should be stored in a cool, dark place and always check seals before using canned tomatoes.


Drying tomatoes removes moisture, which inhibits the growth of bacteria and mould, significantly extending their shelf life. Dried tomatoes are versatile and can be used in various recipes or as a snack. They can be sun-dried, oven-dried, or dried using a food dehydrator. Sun-drying involves slicing tomatoes and laying them out on a drying rack in the sun, covered with fine mesh to keep insects away. Oven drying is done at a low temperature (around 200°F or 93°C) for several hours. A food dehydrator provides a consistent drying process. Store dried tomatoes in airtight containers in a cool, dark place.


Pickling tomatoes can enhance their flavour and extend their shelf life by months. The acidic environment created by vinegar or brine prevents spoilage. Small or cherry tomatoes work best; pierce each tomato with a fork to allow the pickling solution to penetrate. Prepare a brine with vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and spices, then pack the tomatoes into sterilized jars and cover with the hot brine. Seal the jars and store them in a cool, dark place, refrigerating after opening. Experimenting with different spices and herbs can create unique flavours.

Using Vinegar

Storing tomatoes in vinegar helps extend their shelf life by providing an acidic environment that deters bacterial growth. This method is similar to pickling but typically involves less preparation. Submerge whole or sliced tomatoes in white or apple cider vinegar, using a glass or plastic container to avoid reactions with the acid. Keep the container in the refrigerator, where the tomatoes will develop a tangy flavour that can enhance salads and other dishes. Use the vinegar-soaked tomatoes within a couple of weeks for the best results.