How To Know If Tomatoes Have Gone Bad

There always seems to be that moment when you're in the kitchen ready to start on a recipe, you pick up a tomato... and something feels off about it. Your mind might drift back to all the cooking shows you watched on YouTube and just how perfect the red and juicy produce looked in those. How come your own tomatoes seem insistent on looking deflated and unhappy whenever you decide to use them in a dish? 

Tomatoes are some of the easiest vegetables to grow in your garden, and they're packed with a lot of nutrients. Scientifically referred to as fruits, tomatoes are antioxidant-rich and contain vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, and potassium. They also come in a variety of shapes and tastes. 

From pizza toppings to salsas, tomatoes can be used in myriad interesting ways. But, before you cut into those red wonders, you might want to know if they've gone bad. Here are some telling signs. 

You'll know tomatoes have gone bad if they look, feel, and smell odd

Employing the help of your senses — touch, smell, and sight, in particular — is the way to go, per Home Cook Basics. Visually, your tomatoes should look nice and red, without any blemishes on them or fruit flies swarming around them. If you see mold on the tomatoes, even if only a small spot, then you can be 100% sure they've gone bad. Note that the mold could be black, green, or white in color.

Next, pick up your tomato and give it a feel. You might notice a squishier texture, which also means it's gone bad. Fresh tomatoes have some give to them, but they won't feel like they could break apart in your hand, and they definitely won't be leaking any fluid. If any liquid is coming from your tomatoes at all, they should be put in the garbage immediately.

Your nose is your next best detector of freshness. If your tomatoes smell rotten or in any way foul, they should be discarded. You might want to keep in mind, however, that a wrinkled tomato (minus the mold and foul smell) might not necessarily mean it's gone bad. Put your testing skills to use to decide before you toss them in the trash. 

How to store tomatoes so they last longer

Throwing away any kind of food never feels good, especially when you had big plans for the succulent tomatoes you brought home from the store. With a little bit of care, you can avoid doing just that. If the tomatoes you bought have a green tinge to them and they're obviously unripe, it's safe to store them outside until they ripen, per Listonic. Just make sure you pluck off the stems and store them at room temperature. For ripe and ready-to-use tomatoes, the refrigerator is the best place until you're ready to use them in your cooking. 

Even though keeping your tomatoes refrigerated might alter their taste, it's a concrete method of increasing their shelf life, according to Home Cook Basics. You may even get as long as two weeks out of them. If you want to get better flavor out of refrigerated tomatoes, you can try leaving them at room temperature before you use them.

Perhaps you've bought a whole lot of tomatoes and now you're wondering how to keep them fresh. While you might be able to use the excess tomatoes to treat sunburn, storing them in the freezer is also an option. Just make sure you use an air-tight container.