Have you ever gone out to the garden, and found a ripening tomato that gets your mouth watering, only to find that it is cracked or split open? The first reaction could be disappointment, followed by anger. Your mind flashes through possible scenarios that involve animal pests, insect pests, or maybe some agitating neighborhood kid that has sabotaged your great looking tomato. Actually, none of these are the culprit of your tomato vandalism.
Then What Causes My Tomatoes To Crack Or Split?
Splitting or cracking can be quite common and is brought about by fluctuations in watering. This can be due to heavy watering after a long period of no water. It can also be caused by having a period of dry weather, then getting a heavy rain that suddenly over-waters the tomatoes. Splitting and cracking is most prevalent in the later stages of growth when it is beginning to ripen.
When it begins to ripen during a spell without water, the outer skin will thicken and toughen up. A sudden influx of water will cause the tomato to swell (or continue growing) on the inside. This inner swelling will then cause the thickened outer skin to rupture resulting in a split or crack. Although some minor cracking at the top of the tomato is generally harmless, large splits that expose the tomato flesh can invite disease and insect pests.
If you look at the above picture you will notice the four tomatoes. The top two tomatoes have split due to inconsistent watering. The bottom two are not fully ripened but should be picked at this time. You can sit these tomatoes in a window sill that is in a sunny location to further ripen. This will keep them from cracking like the top two did.
Cracks and splits can be more common when dry farming tomatoes. The sudden surge in water from a heavy storm after reduced watering can lead to more cracks and splits. This is why it is best to pick the tomatoes when they begin ripening and then allowed to finish ripening in the home.
How Do I Prevent My Tomatoes From Cracking or Splitting?
The best way to prevent tomatoes from splitting or cracking is to keep your watering methods regular and consistent. It is better to water the tomatoes deeply at regular intervals over sporadic shallow waterings. Make sure that you have a consistent plan for watering, adjusting it to the amount of rain received.
It can be a good idea to stop watering tomatoes when they begin showing signs of ripening. This can greatly reduce the chances of cracking and splitting tomatoes, although allowing them to ripen indoors is the best option
Overfeeding tomatoes when they begin ripening can also affect cracking and splitting, but inconsistent watering is the biggest factor.
Is A Cracked Or Split Tomato Okay To Eat?
In most cases, a cracked or split tomato is just fine for consumption. If you find a tomato that has started cracking, pick it immediately. If the crack is severe and the tomato has been left on the vine for a substantial time, you might want to play it safe and dispose of the tomato. It may have been exposed to a disease, or it may not have, but it isn’t worth it to me to risk it. Most of the time you can cut out the cracked or split section and use the rest of the tomato as you wish. It would not hurt to blanch the tomato first, just to be safe.
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