Have you ever cut into a tomato and found white squiggly looking things inside?

Several AgroWeb.org readers have very recently contacted and sent photos of strange-inside tomatoes asking for information about what is wrong with them. These consumers were very worried about what they found inside their ordinary looking tomatoes and AgroWeb experts explain the whole situation.

In fact, those green sprouts inside the tomatoes are not worms or aliens that made their way to the center, but rather seeds of the fruit that have begun germinating. It is called Vivipary, Latin for Live Birth. It is the term for plants that begin growing while still inside or attached to the mother plant.

Vivipary happens when the hormone controlling the seed dormancy is exhausted or runs out, letting the seed grow in the moist environment inside the fruit. This warm, moist environment is perfect for germinating seed to grow.

If the tomato were left uncut in the warm conditions, the new plant sprout would eventually poke through skin of the now decomposing tomato.

But there is more into it. Cluster types and cherry tomatoes you buy at the grocery store out of season will all be long shelf life varieties. Long shelf life tomatoes, if picked at the right semi-mature stage and gassed, can remain ‘fresh’ 3-4 months after harvest. Ripened on the plant, they have one month of shelf life – max.

While the skin and meat don’t age, the seed continues to mature using the sugars available inside the fruit. The most extreme viviparous tendencies are seen in new hybrid tomatoes that mature, but don’t ripen or rot.

Are these new hybrid tomatoes good? They are just a salad ornament. They are bright red and look good, but have crunch and no flavor. These tomato hybrids ship better and do not risk going bad during transport.

If you cut open a tomato and find seeds that are germinating inside - do not eat germinating seeds! Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family. The fruits are edible; the plant is not, no matter how small it is.

Based on expert advice, AgroWeb found out that even hormone-induced maturation of tomatoes often causes the abnormal germination within a tomato. Hormone-induced maturation artificially accelerates the ripening of the tomatoes and that continues to ripen even after the vegetable was picked away from the plants.

Don’t let anyone tell you that seeds sprouting inside tomato fruits is normal. It’s like totally abnormal, and not some isolated oddity. The earliest report found of buying tomatoes filled with germinating seeds is 2003.

What can consumers do?

First they have to look very well for germinating sprouts because sometimes they are visible even without the tomato being cut. Then, they can always ask the farmer or seller to cut in half a random tomato in the crate. If it pleases your eye, even your mouth will not object./AgroWeb.org