Storing tomatoes in the fridge tends to make them last a bit longer, but I've heard that the flavor is negatively affected. What is the best way to store them?
From the great Harold McGee, they may last longer in the fridge, but they will taste like cardboard:
Tomatoes came originally from a warm climate, and should be stored at room temperature. Their fresh flavor readily suffers from refrigeration. Tomatoes at the mature-green stage are especially sensitive to chilling at temperatures below about 55°F/13°C, and suffer damage to their membranes that results in minimal flavor development, blotchy coloration, and a soft, mealy texture when they're brought back to room temperature.
Excerpted from "On Food And Cooking", by Harold McGee
This depends on the shelf life of the cultivar of tomato you purchased. Some varieties of cherry tomato, for instance, can stay fresh for over two weeks in room temperature, others less than a few days.
My advice: experiment. Try separating a batch of tomatoes into two groups, store one in the fridge and the other outside and keep track of their state after a few days.
As for the flavor thing - I find that it is the texture that's most affected from refrigeration.
Tomatoes do well when stored in a place with good air flow and out of direct sunlight (I keep mine in a mini-colander). Tomatoes that are refrigerated lose their flavor because their flavoring compounds shut down (and won't turn on again even when the tomatoes are allowed to return to room temperature).
Where do you live though? if you live in a hot / humid climate with no air condition, then put them in the fridge.
It also depends what are you using the tomatoes for. if you're cooking salads with them, then fresh and not in fridge is great; however if you're making sauces out of them, or cooking them, then I don't think it really makes that much of a difference.
Some might argue that it does, but how noticeable is the difference, especially if the above mentioned tomatoes are store bought and not home grown
According to CargoHandBook ripe tomatoes should be stored at 8-10°C at 90-95% humidity, for optimum shelf life. Reduced oxygen/increased CO₂ also helps.
It also adds that
tomatoes stored at 10°C were rated lower in flavour and aroma than those held at 13°C.
The quote from McGee refers to the mature-green stage, not fully ripe. The quote continues:
Fully ripe tomatoes are less sensitive, but lose flavour due to the loss of flavour-producing enzyme activity. Some of this activity can come back, so refrigerated tomatoes should be allowed to recover at room temperature for a day or two before eating.
Putting them in a wine fridge (~16°C) is probably not a bad idea. You get stable temperature and high-ish humidity. But take them out a day or so before eating.
Putting tomatoes in the fridge destroys everything that makes them good to begin with. They will lose flavor, and their texture will become gritty and mealy.
Yes, they will last longer before they go rotten. But if you've got an abundance of tomatoes, cook them down and do something with them, don't try to stretch out their existence at the expense of their splendor.
Foodland Ontario, the consumer facing arm of the Ministry of Agriculture has this to say:
Store at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, to prevent uneven ripening.
Only in extreme heat, or if overripe, should tomatoes be stored in the refrigerator butter compartment. But to ensure full flavour, allow them to reach room temperature before serving.
According to me, it's better to store ripe tomatoes outside the fridge, stem-end down to keep them from rotting too quickly. And I found great tip on storing unripe tomatoes and making them ripen faster: http://www.listonic.com/protips/get/ozhdfpuszg <--I can only add, that you should put tomatoes and banana in paper bag.