Most everyone is familiar with the tasty, acidic tomato, the fruit that brings life to sandwiches and pasta dinners. But thanks to some firmly held and erroneous beliefs about proper storage, it’s entirely possible you have never actually tasted a tomato that’s lived up to its full potential.

Why? According to a study recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tomatoes that go directly into cold storage experience changes at the genetic level that irrevocably alter their taste.

The study looked at both common variety tomatoes and heirlooms to examine the differences on a molecular level after they had been stored at 41°F for one, three, or seven days, and then brought out to recover at 68°F. The tomatoes fared okay after one or three days in this chilly environment, but after seven, there were fewer volatile compounds that contribute to the tomato’s flavor, thanks to a reduced number of RNAs encoding transcription factors that would've expressed the genes associated with them. (Sugars and acids tend to remain the same, but without the compounds, taste suffers.) Taste testing confirmed that the cooled tomatoes didn't have the same appeal as those coming directly from the vine.

It’s possible that selective fruit breeding may one day result in a tomato that won’t be affected by cooler temperatures. Until then, study authors say the best way to preserve peak tomato flavor is to buy fresh and then store them at room temperature for up to a week.

[h/t NY Times]