Yes, you can eat freshly split tomatoes. While it may not always be the prettiest or tastiest option, eating split tomatoes is perfectly safe. In some cases, leaving away the cracked tomato is your best option and it should be discarded. The cases may-
- Starting to get soft or looks like it has started to spoil.
- Tomatoes that have been left out for too long ( can create a foodborne illness)
- Tomatoes that have gone bad or become very overripe.
However, if the tomato is still fresh and the crack on it appears minor and dry, then you can still eat it. We recommend washing off any dirt from the tomato before eating it and cutting away any parts with obvious discoloration. To gain a deeper understanding, let’s dive in and explore-
Why Cracks Are Formed and What the Relation to Eating Split Tomatoes?
As I studied Horticulture on different vegetables, I have seen many factors that are relatively operative like varying temperatures, water availability, soil nutrition, etc. That can lead to cracking in tomatoes. In some cases, the size of the tomato can also be subject to cracking when it cannot fit the capillary action of its stem anymore.
In addition to these factors leading to splitting, there are a few other causes too. They may be caused by-
- Environmental factors or
- The way they are grown and handled.
When the inner flesh of a tomato expands faster than its skin, cracking can occur due to sudden changes in soil moisture – for instance when harvesting or watering plants and during rainy weather. Tomatoes that are exposed to too much water, or not enough water can also crack.
Cracks may also occur as tomatoes ripen or due to sudden changes in temperature (such as when a warm tomato is suddenly moved to a cold environment).
Other environmental factors such as extreme temperatures, too much sun, or wind can also cause cracking. Also, tomatoes grown in soil that is low in nutrients or high in salts can develop cracks in their skins.
Several diseases and rots can also contribute to cracking tomatoes. Bacterial and fungal infections, such as Alternaria blight, early blight, and Anthracnose can cause tomatoes to crack too.
However, you may not be able to observe it in every case, as the cracking symptom is often overshadowed by the greater destruction of the entire plant.
Note: Tomato splitting does not typically occur due to a parasitic bug or illness, so you don’t have to worry about other plants becoming affected.
The way they are grown and handled.
The beginner gardener always makes mistakes by over-fertilizing, over-watering, or not pruning regularly. Any of these can lead to tomato cracking.
Tomatoes also may crack due to rough handling when harvesting or storing them. So, you must maintain proper management from the very beginning.
Types of Cracks on Tomato and Their Effects
Tomatoes can develop several types of cracks- radial, concentric, and longitudinal.
- Have a starburst pattern that radiates out from the stem.
- Caused by rapid growth or excessive amounts of water in the soil.
- Can make tomatoes more vulnerable to rotting and should be avoided if possible.
- Deeper wounds
- Form a circular pattern around the stem and is caused by changes in soil moisture.
- Many ailments often resolve on their own with minimal intervention.
- Can affect the taste of the tomato and make it less sweet, but they are still safe to eat.
- Run along the length of the tomato and are caused by extreme temperatures, wind, or rough handling.
Why Homegrown Tomato Spit?
We know why the store-bought tomatoes have split, but what about those that we grow ourselves? There are a few things to keep in mind here:
Tomato varieties – Different tomato varieties respond differently to soil moisture and weather conditions. Some of them even have a genetic predisposition to cracking like Early Girls or Brandywine. But this seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
Weather conditions – If the weather has been unusually hot or cold (Heavy rain or dry weather), your tomatoes may split due to unusual growth.
Size of the tomato – Large tomatoes have a greater risk of splitting than small ones as they cannot fit the capillary action of their stem anymore. The area of the tomato closest to the stem is where cracking often begins. Radial splitting may occur but is less common.
Soil composition and planting location – If your tomatoes are planted in a spot with either too much or too little water, this can lead to splitting. Additionally, if the soil has a lot of clay it may retain more moisture than other soils which can cause cracking as well. Besides low nutrient or high salt levels in the soil can lead to splitting as well.
Is Proper Watering Essential for Tomato Growth?
Proper watering is essential for tomato growth and health. Tomatoes need a steady supply of moisture throughout the season to produce a good crop. Water your tomatoes deeply and regularly, so that the water penetrates at least 8–10 inches into the soil. This will encourage deep root growth, which helps the plants tolerate drought conditions better.
Besides, it improves the tomato quality and prevents any cracks and splits. On Quora, a user shared their insight about the importance of watering tomatoes – emphasizing how vital it is in ensuring healthy fruits. Have a look-
How to Prevent Tomatoes From Cracking?
As we know, tomato cracks are due to physiological disorders, so it requires correct cultural practices and proper management. Here are some tips that can help you avoid tomato cracking:
- Water your tomatoes regularly, but not too much. Too much water in the soil will cause rapid growth and splitting of the skins.
- Always use well-drained soil for growing tomatoes. Sandy loam soil is ideal.
- Plant tomatoes in a sunny, well-ventilated spot and keep the soil warm.
- Proper pruning of tomato plants helps reduce uneven stresses on the plant.
- Mulch your plants to help retain moisture and control weeds.
- Avoid over-fertilizing with nitrogen-rich fertilizers as this can cause excessive growth and fruit splitting.
- Handle tomatoes with care when harvesting, storing, and transporting them.
- If you notice any cracks on the tomato skin, cook the tomato before eating it to eliminate potential bacteria or fungi.
Associated Risk: Can I Eat Raw Cracked Tomatoes?
The potential hazards associated with eating split tomatoes include bacterial or fungal contamination, as well as an increased risk of foodborne illness. Split tomatoes provide a great environment for bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli to thrive in, so it is important to properly clean the tomato before consuming it.
A 2007-2012 study of multiple cases uncovered that raw tomatoes with split cuticles are more prone to foodborne diseases. As a result, 174 people contracted Salmonella javiana infection and 886 individuals in North America succumbed to Salmonella typhimurium during this same period.
All of these occurrences are due to the bacteria Enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), which is found in surface water and soil and is an opportunistic pathogen that exploits any open wound – especially those on tomatoes.
This bacterium can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Therefore, proper cleaning of your tomatoes before consumption is essential to minimize the risk of exposure.
Lastly, while there is no scientific evidence suggesting that split tomatoes are unsafe to eat, it’s always best to do your due diligence and check with a doctor or health professional if you notice any unusual symptoms after eating them.
Note: Cooking is the best option to minimize the salmonella infection to zero.
Is a Cracked Tomato Nutritionally Lacking?
Cracked tomatoes may indeed be a bit more susceptible to spoilage due to the natural growth of bacteria and fungi. However, there is no evidence suggesting that split tomatoes are nutritionally lacking in any way. Besides containing high amounts of lycopene and antioxidants, this food also contains other essential nutrients that are necessary for the human body.
Many studies have shown that ripe tomatoes can retain their nutritional value even when they have cracks on their skin. Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K as well as potassium, folate, and fiber.
Note: A person doesn’t eat a split tomato every day, so it will not affect the nutritional value of the tomatoes.
Cracked tomatoes are just as nutritious and safe to eat as their non-split counterparts; however, it is important to practice proper food handling techniques to reduce the risk of contamination from bacteria or fungi. Cooking split tomatoes is also an option that can eliminate any potential risks associated with eating them raw.
After reading the article, it is concluded that although some tomatoes may be split in your orchard, the rest are still able to be eaten. Therefore, you can safely consume any tomato from your own garden despite a few being less than perfect.
I am a graduate of Bangladesh Agricultural University, where I delved into various agricultural disciplines, equipping me with a profound understanding of agriculture. Beyond academics, I have hands-on experience in gardening and crop cultivation. My passion is to embrace sustainable farming and horticulture. With a BSc in Agriculture, I am dedicated to promoting environmentally conscious and efficient agrarian practices.
Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Agriculture (Hons.)
Master of Science. (Sustainable Agriculture & Food Security ) (MS)
Bangladesh Agricultural University