Friday, July 19, 2013

Tops of Tomatoes Splitting

Has the top of your tomato split and you are wondering what happened, is it still good to eat, and what do I do to prevent this from happening again?

Unfortunately, it seems like you wait forever for your tomatoes to ripen and just as it is getting time to pick them their tops split. When this happens it is so disappointing. But don't fret, you can still eat your tomato.

Top of Tomato Splitting
The "Big Boy" variety shown in the picture with the split top, was new for me this year. It had it's first blooms back in mid May.  We had two heavy rains earlier this week that caused the top of this tomato to split. I also accidentally gouged the tomato with the pruners when I was cutting it off the vine.

Yes, I was bummed. I had wanted an award winning super large red juicy tomato to be the first one off the vine. I have watched and tended after this one tomato for a month and a half. But after I got over my desire for the perfect looking tomato, I decided to settle on the perfect tasting tomato instead! So, I just cut off and discarded a small portion of the top.

When this happens to you, just use a sharp knife and cut the top of the tomato off, just a bit below the deepest split.  The tomato is still safe and very good to eat.  If the tomato is left on the plant the skin will seal off and look dark, as you can see from the bottom split.

Why this happens:
If you are new to tomato growing, if the plant receives more water than usual or dries out between waterings the top of the tomato can split. This is because the tomato will absorb more water quicker than it can grow, bursting the skin.

Prevention:
There are two main things you can do to avoid this. If you do have a heavy rain and your tomato is just about ripe, you can pull it off the plant and let it ripen in the window.
The second thing you can do is to make sure your ground is always moist and never dries out. I have my tomatoes in a new bed, and have been fiddling with our drip irrigation system to get the water just right. I figured I would bust a few tomato skins before I got the water just right.

Summary:
Keeping the tomato top from splitting boils down to keeping your tomato plant evenly watered. Tomatoes that split are still good for eating, just cut out the affected area.

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