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7 Ways to Tell if a Tomato is Bad

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Tomatoes have a wide variety of uses for cooking. They also make good snacks from time to time. But just like other vegetables, tomatoes are only good to eat for a particular period. Once this period passes, tomatoes will go bad, and you’ll have to dispose of them.

One red rotten tomato lies among ripe healthy tomatoes

So, say you have some tomatoes, and they look…awkward. You are trying to figure out if they are still fresh, but you are not sure. Here’s a guide that could help you figure it out.

In this article, we will talk about the ways you can spot a bad tomato, how to keep tomatoes fresh, and some other related questions.

How Long Do Tomatoes Usually Last Once You Buy Them From the Store?

The duration for which a tomato stays fresh depends on a few factors. a couple of these factors include when it was harvested and when it was purchased.

Now, let’s see how long some types of tomatoes last when stored at room temperature and when stored in the refrigerator.

Type of tomatoStored at room temperatureStored in a refrigerator
Canned tomatoesOne year to 18 months if it has not been openedSeven days if it has been opened
Ripe tomatoes7-10 days5-10 days
Unripe tomatoes9-15 days depending on how unripe it isFreezing will speed up the rate of ripening
Fresh tomatoesOne weekTwo weeks

7 Ways to Tell if a Tomato Is Bad

Fresh sliced tomatoes on cutting board

Here are some signs to look for when checking if a tomato is bad:

  1. Color: If it is not the usual solid red or you notice some discoloration, it is best to discard such tomato.
  2. Cracks, mold spots, or any damage on its surface: These are signs your tomato has gone bad.
  3. When you are about to purchase your tomatoes from the market, ensure to give it a slight grip, but do not squeeze it. If the tomatoes sink in when you grip, it is a sign of spoilage. 
  4. Leakage: This means they should be used immediately, or you discard them.
  5. Mold: this is a sure sign that it has already passed its use date and should be discarded immediately. 
  6. Smell: If it produces a putrid, bitter, or foul smell, especially close to the stem, discard the tomato immediately.
  7. Fruit flies: If you see fruit flies on your tomato, it might be going bad. Flies on tomatoes can be really off-putting, but you can avoid this by placing them in the freezer.

What Does It Look Like on the Inside?

Sometimes the signs of a bad tomato are not always evident on the outside, and you might not know until you take it home from the store.

Once you slice open the tomato, this is how you know it’s bad:

  • Take a piece of the sliced tomato and feel around it. If the tomato feels slimy, it is not safe to eat and you should dispose of it.
  • If you happen to notice that the sliced tomato has mold spots, discoloration in some areas, or if you perceive some foul odor, discard the tomato immediately. 

Is a Wrinkled Tomato Bad?

Wrinkled tomatoes are not bad. The wrinkling of the tomato tells you that the skin is getting tougher as it ages.

As long as you don’t perceive any odor, see any signs of mold, or the tomato getting rotten, then it is safe to eat.

Wrinkled tomato

The wrinkling of the tomato is just a sign of dehydration. As all the liquid in the tomato reduces, the outer surface starts to wrinkle. The tomatoes may look ugly, but they are still safe to eat. 

Ways to Make Your Tomatoes Last Longer

Here are some tips for storing tomatoes that will help make your tomatoes last longer.

  • For unripe tomatoes, it is important to place the stem side down in a box or paper bag. Place them in a cool place for storage until their color changes to red.
  • A fully ripe tomato should be stored away from the sunlight when kept at room temperature.
  • When storing ripe tomatoes, ensure they do not touch each other and keep their stems pointed upwards.
  • Overripe tomatoes should be kept in the fridge. The low levels or absence of air in the fridge will reduce the rate at which the tomatoes ripen and should make it last a few extra days.
  • You could also preserve your tomatoes by pickling them. This method involves storing the tomatoes in a salty, pickling liquid.

The pickling liquid is made up of vinegar, water, and salt. If need be, you may add sugar and some other spices.

  • Canning the tomatoes also helps preserve them. There are two methods for canning, and you may choose whichever you prefer.
  • Another good way of preserving tomatoes is by dehydrating them. This method involves draining the tomatoes of their water content. With the water out, the rate at which the tomato will spoil reduces.

3 Things That Cause a Tomato to Go Bad More Quickly

Tomatoes, when stored properly, usually last a while. But under certain conditions, they may go bad faster than you expect.

Fresh and old wrinkled tomato with mold on blue board

Here are some reasons your stored tomatoes may go bad more quickly:

  • Keeping tomatoes in a plastic bag will make them go bad quickly, especially if they are ripe.
  • Refrigeration is a good way of storing tomatoes, but it may ruin their taste and flavor.
  • Storing tomatoes in a pile causes them to bruise, which eventually causes them to rot.

Final Thoughts

If you think a tomato is spoiled or rotten, please discard it. Consuming bad tomatoes can cause serious illness. So, when you are unsure of the quality of what you have, discarding them is the safest way to go.


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Friday 24th of December 2021

I've noticed that the area where the stem was attached gets darker when the produce is close to it's end.