A study published by PNA found that chilling tomatoes at temperatures under 12°C lost flavor due to the loss of temperature sensitive, flavor-associated volatiles. Lower levels of specific volatiles directly correlate with significant reductions in RNA transcription encoding for enzymes used to synthesize of more volatiles. Although some RNA recovers after returning to 20°C, some coding factors essential for ripening and flavor do not. This, along with artificial ripening of tomatoes by ethylation, significantly degrade the quality of the tomato.
The New York Times also reports that by the time of purchase, tomatoes have endured ethylation ripening for four days, as well as shipment, repackaging, and refrigeration. This means that by the time the consumer takes the tomato, its flavor has been decaying for about 10 days, plus any time added by the consumer before actually using the produce.
I find this subject matter to be very interesting. Is this process exacly like that of protein denaturation by heat? Having no previous knowledge of tomato flavor decay, and knowing this now, it really encourages me as a consumer to use tomatoes, and any produce, as soon as possible in order to benefit as much as possible from my food. This really adds an extra element in restaurants competing to have the freshest produce and the tastiest dishes!
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