A picture taken on June 13, 2014 shows cherry tomatoes in a local business, in Paris / PIERRE ANDRIEU/AFP/Getty Images

Just add water... sort of

A study has found that dunking supermarket tomatoes in hot water before they ripen could make them taste better.

Dr Jinhe Bai, a chemist at the United States Department of Agriculture wondered if the chilling process used to transport tomatoes was to blame for the bland taste of supermarket tomatoes.

Dr Bai and his colleagues found heating the tomatoes before they are chilled improved their flavour, in a study published in LWT-Food Science Technology.

The Florida-grown green tomatoes were placed in water heated to 51.6°C for five minutes, then cooled to room temperature before being chilled to the temperatures normally used for shipping.

They were then rated for flavour by 21 volunteers, based on aromas released: 14 panellists reported that the heated tomatoes had more a greater tomato aroma.

However, the method doesn’t help with purchased tomatoes that have already ripened - “just heating tomatoes doesn’t seem to help,” Dr Bai says – as heating or chilling ripened tomatoes can suppress the flavour beyond repair.

Instead, the researchers say heating then chilling increases the un-ripened tomato’s resistance to the internal chilling injury that causes the loss of the aroma compounds.

Dr Bai said: “There’s no negative effect from the hot water treatment and it will help to kill fungi or bacteria on the surface of the fruit that cause postharvest diseases, and it should be an easy practice to adopt.”