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What causes tomatoes to crack?

Updated on October 5, 2014
Patsybell profile image

I inherited my love of gardening from mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, and Master Gardener emeritus.

All my tomatoes are cracking up

Be consistent. Water plants regularly to reduce tomato cracks or splits.
Be consistent. Water plants regularly to reduce tomato cracks or splits. | Source

Tomato Spits

Peel tomatoes before serving. Taste is not affected.
Peel tomatoes before serving. Taste is not affected. | Source

Is it safe to eat cracked tomatoes?



Splits or cracks are an aesthetic problem. The tomato will be just as tasty. Cut out the split area and eat as usual.


Splitting or cracking happens as a tomato is growing, the earlier it happens, the larger the crack. Some tomatoes are said to be crack resistant, but no tomato is crack proof. All tomatoes can occasionally crack.

There are two types of tomato cracks

  • Concentric cracking – The tomato skin splits in circles or semi-circles spanning a portion or the entire circumference of the fruit. (Like the tomatoes at the top of this article.)
  • Radial cracking – Splits run in straight lines going out from the stem.

There are three main reasons why tomatoes will crack

Too much fertilizer, inconsistent watering, temperature fluctuations lead to cracking. Just because this current crop is cracked, doesn't mean all future tomatoes will be cracked.

1. Improper fertilization: Over feeding plants will make tomatoes more prone to cracking. Take care not to over fertilize. This fall or winter, get a soil test and amend the soil as suggested.

2. Irregularly watering: The most common cause of cracks in tomatoes is heavy rainfall or over watering after a period of drought. A tomato fruit is 95 percent water, so tomatoes need lots of water to grow and develop fruit. Tomato plants should receive 1 to 2 inches of water a week. If this amount is not received as rainfall, then supplemental irrigation is necessary. Do not over water. Buy a rain gauge and use your local rain measurments as a watering guide.

Letting tomato plants dry out and then giving them large amounts of water to make up for it, can cause cracking. Inconsistent watering causes cracking because the sudden influx of rain or water causes the inside of the tomato expand, rupturing the outer skin.

3. Temperature extremes: Big changes in temperatures can cause cracking or splitting, especially with severe pruning. When too many leaves are removed from the plants, fruit is deprived of sun protection. Heating during the day and cooling at night can cause the skin to expand and contract, causing splits.

Extreme temperatures and heat waves are beyond our control. Leave enough foliage to protect tomatoes. If you are uncertain about pruning techniques, check with the local University Extension.

Heirlooms tend to have thinner skin and are more fragile. Some hybrids are bred to be more crack resistant. Look for Big Beef, an All America Selections Winner and very crack resistant.

Crack resistant tomatoes: Jet Star, Mountain Gold, Juliet, Beef Master, Big Boy, Rutger's Select, Whopper, and Mule Team.

Mulching will help moisture levels to remain consistent. Click for more top tomato tips

Comments

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  • Ilonagarden profile image

    Ilona E 

    3 years ago from Ohio

    I did have a little splitting this year, but my tomatoes tasted and looked great! Other years not always so successful. I always wondered what led to the cracks, and appreciate the information.

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    3 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    mary615, I want to help you grow tomatoes. I know you can, most of the winter time grocery store tomatoes in this area are from Florida. So, tell me what you think the problem is. First, start with plants, not seed. Do you have blooms?

  • mary615 profile image

    Mary Hyatt 

    3 years ago from Florida

    I don't even want to talk about tomatoes! I am a complete failure at growing tomatoes. I can grow anything else, but I give up on tomatoes.

    I'd be happy to just harvest cracked tomatoes!!

  • Frank Atanacio profile image

    Frank Atanacio 

    3 years ago from Shelton

    here a few cracked tomatoes will not spoil to whole bunch..LOL a great lttle share my friend

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    4 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Cracked tomatoes is really only a cosmetic problem. Thank you for reading my garden hubs.

  • mmetripp profile image

    Sarah 

    4 years ago from Nebraska

    Now I know what is happening if my tomatoes crack and hopefully how to prevent it. Thanks for the tips.

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    5 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Hi, I appreciate the comments. Hope to hear about your gardening adventures in Croatia.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    I had a few cracked tomatoes but didn't other to question it now I know why from your well informed hub. We had some extremely hot days and continued watering daily like flooding it with water.

  • clairewait profile image

    clairewait 

    6 years ago from North Carolina

    I'm sure my splitting tomatoes is a result of irregular watering, but I'd never heard this before. Thanks for the tip.

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