What happens when tomatoes split?

Answered by Antonio Sutton

When tomatoes split, it can be a frustrating experience for any gardener or tomato lover. I’ve had my fair share of tomatoes splitting, and it’s not a pleasant sight. The damage usually occurs around the stem end of the tomato, resulting in what is known as side splits or cracking.

The main culprit behind tomato splitting is hot and humid weather. During these conditions, the tomato plants take up water from the soil at a rapid pace. This sudden influx of water causes the fruit to expand quickly, putting pressure on the skin. If the skin is not flexible enough or if there are any weak spots, it can’t handle the sudden expansion and ends up cracking.

The cracks can vary in size and severity. Some may be small and superficial, while others can be deep and extend into the flesh of the tomato. Regardless of the size, these cracks provide an open door for fruit-rotting microbes to invade. Bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms can easily enter through the damaged skin and cause the tomato to rot from the inside out.

Once the microbes have entered the tomato, the rotting process begins. The flesh of the tomato starts to break down, turning mushy and discolored. The aroma of fermentation may also be noticeable. This not only affects the appearance and taste of the tomato but also reduces its shelf life. A tomato that has started to rot will not last as long as a healthy one, and it’s best to use it as soon as possible.

Preventing tomato splitting can be a challenge, especially during hot and humid weather. However, there are a few measures you can take to minimize the risk. One approach is to provide consistent and even watering to the plants. This helps to maintain a steady moisture level in the soil and reduces the chances of sudden water uptake by the tomatoes.

Mulching around the base of the tomato plants can also be beneficial. A layer of organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, helps to regulate soil temperature and moisture. This can reduce the stress on the plants and minimize the likelihood of cracking.

Another technique is to provide shade for the tomatoes during the hottest parts of the day. This can be achieved by using shade cloth or strategically placing the plants in areas that receive partial shade. By reducing the direct exposure to intense sunlight, you can help prevent rapid water uptake and subsequent splitting.

When tomatoes split, it opens the door for fruit-rotting microbes to invade, leading to the deterioration of the fruit. Hot and humid weather is often the main cause of tomato splitting, as the rapid water uptake puts pressure on the skin. Taking preventive measures, such as consistent watering, mulching, and providing shade, can help reduce the risk of tomato splitting and ensure healthier, longer-lasting fruits.