A friend who “overshopped” at the warehouse store just gave me half a case of Roma tomatoes (another example of why it never hurts to ask!).
I usually grow my own tomatoes and just give them a quick rinse before using. However, these were coated with food wax and had been handled by many little kids–so I wanted to wash them thoroughly.
A quick web search left me confused. Should I buy a vegetable wash spray? Soak them in a sink full of vinegar and water? Scrub with a soft brush?
I even saw an article that recommended washing produce in a sink full of water and bleach. Ummm…no way in heck.
Thank goodness for the Master Gardeners! They directed me to a university study on cleaning and storing tomatoes, so I have the best info to pass on to you.
Before we clean our tomatoes though, we need to have a lesson in basic tomato anatomy. Don’t worry, Mom, this is completely G-rated.
The end of the tomato that is attached to the plant is the stem. When you pull the tomato off the plant, the little brown divot is called the stem scar. The other end is called the blossom end. Ever heard a gardener talking about blossom end rot? It happens to the best of us.
Why does the anatomy lesson matter? Because the stem scar is a weak point in the tomato’s skin. If you soak your tomatoes in a sink full of produce wash or vinegar water, any crud that washes off the tomato skin could potentially contaminate the tomato flesh through the stem scar.
So how do you wash tomatoes, then? According to the Master Gardeners, you should rinse, rub the surface, rinse again, and dry. After washing, cut away the stem scar and surrounding area and discard it before slicing or chopping the tomato. You can either compost these pieces or feed them to a nearby critter (my turtle loves them–worms would too).
Did I mention that I have a LOT of tomatoes sitting around?!?