The Effect of Various Preparation Methods on the Spoilage Rate of Roma Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)
(1) Weston High School, Weston, Massachusetts
As levels of food waste continue to rise, it is essential to find improved techniques of prolonging the shelf life of produce. This study aimed to find a simple, yet effective, method of slowing down spoilage in tomatoes. Roma tomatoes were soaked in water, salt water, bleach solution, vinegar solution, or vegetable oil. One half of the tomatoes washed in each solution were dried, while the rest were not. The tomatoes were then stored in individual plastic containers for 14 days and scored each day on a semi-quantitative scale that measured spoilage. While we originally hypothesized that the bleach treatment with drying would perform the best, soaking the tomatoes in salt water and leaving them undried resulted in the least spoilage over time. The salt water undried group had an average spoilage score of 7 out of 20 by the end of the first iteration and 4.3 out of 20 by the end of the second. These scores were both the lowest in their respective rounds of the experiment, demonstrating significantly reduced spoilage compared to the control. Linear regression analysis revealed that the salt water undried tomatoes displayed the lowest correlation between time and spoilage, confirming that this preparation was the most effective. Additionally, bacterial counts from the second iteration revealed that higher bacterial levels did not correlate to more visible spoilage. In conclusion, application of a simple 1% salt water solution to tomatoes could significantly extend their shelf life and thus reduce waste.