Friday, August 5, 2016

Cracks in Tomatoes

There's nothing quite like the taste of a fresh garden tomato. I love growing tomatoes, and am still learning the best ways of growing them. Virginia Tech has a great free tip sheet on growing tomatoes that can help beginners improve their cultural practices and grow gorgeous tomatoes all summer long.

Let's talk about one problem that I'm seeing frequently in my garden this year: cracks, specifically cracks that radiate longitudinally from the stem of the tomato and radiate down into the fruit. These are called growth cracks, and they can be common among large, beefsteak varieties of tomatoes.

According to the Cooperative Extension, these cracks appear when environmental conditions cause rapid growth of the tomato. A drought, followed by a heavy downpour, is an example of natural conditions that can cause these cracks.

Think of it this way: a tomato's skin is like a plastic grocery bag. If you fill a grocery bag too full of cans or boxes, cracks appear and the bag breaks. It can only expand so far to fit your purchases inside. A tomato is like that. The exterior skin can only grow so fast, but when a rush of water hits the garden, the greedy roots drink deeply, pushing water to the growing tomatoes. The skin can't expand fast enough, so what does it do? It cracks.

You can prevent growth cracks to some extent by watering your plants on a regular basis. Of course, you can't control nature. A downpour after a thunderstorm, a welcome rain storm after a drought - that's life in Virginia in the summertime. Into every life a little rain must fall.

Tomatoes with cracks are fine to eat. Just cut away the cracked part, and keep an eye on the area where the cracks appear. Microorganisms can enter and start rot, which of course ruins the tomato.

But in the meantime, you can still enjoy those fine summer tomatoes. Rain or shine, nothing beats a fresh garden tomato on a hot August day.

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