What Makes Tomatoes Crack?

tomato

Where I live, fall and tomatoes don’t mix. Yes, there are the beautiful, crisp days with the last ripe tomatoes hanging from the vines. There are also many rainy days, and with these rainy days come tomato woes. Tomato blight pays us a visit, as does the dreaded fall cracking of the tomatoes.

Why do tomatoes crack? Usually it is from a sudden inflow of water into the tomato. Imagine that your tomato is a balloon. All summer it’s been growing slowly and steadily, watered by hand or by occasional rains. All of a sudden, fall comes, and with the fall comes a large rain. The tomato fills up with water, and just like a balloon that was suddenly overinflated, your tomato pops. Some splits take place slowly and heal over as the tomato grows. Others take place suddenly, and you are left with a soggy, split tomato.

The skin of a fruit is a shield against disease. Tomatoes that have cracked are exposed to pests that can move into the fruit.

What can you do with a half-cracked tomato?

If your tomato has cracked as you harvest it, wash it and use it as soon as possible. A tomato that cracks as you wash it is perfectly safe to eat raw. You can blanch tomatoes if you are concerned about their longevity in the fridge. A newly cracked tomato is a perfect candidate for sauce.

If you harvest a soft, cracked tomato that cracked a long time ago, stay on the more conservative side of food safety and send that one to the compost.

If you save seeds, you can take them out of a large cracked tomato that is unusable but not rotten. Since tomatoes crack because of the weather and not because of a faulty tomato, these giant tomatoes are still ideal for seed-saving, as you want to save some of your loveliest tomatoes for this purpose.

Image credit: rdragan79

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