How to Know When a Tomato Goes Bad

by M.T. Wroblewski

Cooks are faced with a mixed bag when it comes to storing tomatoes. Those kept at room temperature taste better than those stored in the refrigerator. But chilled tomatoes can last twice as long as those kept on the counter or in a pantry. Reconcile the dilemma without seeing red, knowing that wherever you keep tomatoes, they won’t last forever. No one wants to contract a foodborne illness, so learn to recognize when tomatoes have gone bad.

Check the condition of the tomato skin. Fresh tomatoes are firm and taut; bad tomatoes look puckered and wrinkled, and the skin may be cracked or split in places.

Inspect the tomato for signs of mold, including black or dark green splotches and white fuzz. A waxy film on the tomato can also be a sign of trouble.

Pick up a tomato to see whether it’s leaking liquid from the bottom. Like a once plump balloon, bad tomatoes often go soft and limp, then ooze a liquid that might resemble vegetable oil.

Smell the tomato. A bad tomato may exude a putrid, bitter or otherwise foul aroma, especially near the stem.

Throw away tomatoes that look or smell bad. Trust your instincts and err on the side of playing it safe.


  • Minimize the flavor loss from refrigerated tomatoes by keeping them in the crisper section for no longer than three days. Put them in a paper bag and keep them away from meat, poultry, fish and other foods that could leak.
  • Store fresh tomatoes under a glass dome or in a paper bag in a cool spot and out of the path of direct sunlight.
  • Confront fruit flies by putting a small bowl of white vinegar next to your tomatoes. Drawn to this aroma, the curious flies will meet a hasty and liquid demise.

About the Author

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.

Photo Credits

  • Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images