This article will talk about why tomatoes rot as they grow down the vine of the plant. It’s an interesting process to watch, so make sure you are looking out for it!
There are several reasons that this happens but the most common one is when water cannot be reabsorbed into the tomato skin. When this occurs, the tomato dehydrates and death begins to take place.
Another reason could be bacterial growth, either internal or external (on the surface). These bacteria thrive in the dry environment at the root tip where there is not much oxygen present.
Whatever the cause, this does not affect production of the fruit as long as it is harvested before significant rotting takes place. But watching how quickly the tomato rots can help learn some important lessons about plants!
Here we will discuss what causes this problem and possible solutions. If left untreated, this would only get worse over time, so try doing something to prevent this!
Why do tomatoes rot as they grow down the vine?
This topic may seem very complicated, but don’t worry, it’s easy enough.
The tomato gets water and nutrients from the vine
While tomatoes will always remain interesting to eat, there is something you may have noticed about them- they slowly get less tasty as they dry out. This process of dehydration is called ripening, and it happens due to an enzyme in the tomato that reacts with another chemical compound.
As the tomato matures, this enzyme changes how salty its taste is. When cooking or slicing a tomato, make sure to wash the tomato first so that none of the juice remains which could prevent the enzymatic reaction from happening.
This does not mean that dried out tomatoes are totally without flavor! There are many ways to rehydrate a dried up tomato. You can soak it in brine, simmer it down, or roast it until it is soft. All these methods contribute moisture and start to restore the tomato’s flavor.
The vine and the tomato have different levels of acidity
As mentioned before, when a fruit comes into season, tomatoes are one of the first fruits to ripe. This means that there is a shorter amount of time in which they can taste good and be considered mature.
When they are harvested, the vines are sometimes left behind to dry out and die. This is called ripening with the plant and it helps preserve the fleshy part of the tomato known as the tomato pulp or gelato.
However, if the vine is not removed immediately after harvesting the tomato, then the acid level of the tomato will rise due to contact with the dying vine.
This increase in acid level may negatively affect how well the tomato tastes later on. Therefore, some recipes call for removing the tomato skin which is very porous so that this does not happen.
Removing the skin also allows some people to eat the whole thing because you see the white inner core which has salt added to it.
The difference in acidity causes the tomato to rot
Along with flavor, acidity is an important factor when it comes to eating tomatoes. If you like very sour or salty foods, then you know how much some of these fruits can taste!
Acidity is what makes food taste good. When your mouth is exposed to acidic liquids, your taste buds enjoy that liquid as it goes into your oral cavity. Some people refer to this as chemical attraction.
When there’s not enough acidity, your stomach doesn’t want to accept the fluid so it stays in your gut where it can cause digestive problems. Sometimes, it also has to work harder to digest the fluids, which decreases appetite.
There are two main acids in most plants- citric acid and lactic acid. Citric acid helps preserve freshness while lactic acid contributes to the ripening process. (This is why dried out raisins have lost their sweetness.)
But during the growing season, if a plant does not get enough water, it will start to dry up. To keep the plant alive, it produces more chlorophyll to try and capture light energy, which uses up a lot of sugar.
Since it cannot find glucose or sucrose to feed on, it starts converting other sugars into lactic acid instead, creating a balance problem. Also, because it does not have enough oxygen, it must close its leaves to conserve energy, causing less air exposure for the fruit.
Different bacteria grow on the vine and the tomato
The most common cause of soft, rotted tomatoes is fungal growth. This can occur when moisture gathers in the neck of the tomato as it matures or due to water being allowed to sit in the fruit for too long during harvest.
Fungal spores may also get into the plant tissue at any time while the plant was healthy. When conditions are right, the fungi will develop special cells to feed on the nutrients in the tomato skin.
As the tomato dries out, these hungry microbes move inside the tomato where they find more food. Sometimes they even take control of the whole process and make the flesh decay.
Steps must be taken to avoid this problem. Make sure to dry pickle your vegetables to reduce chances of bacterial contamination.
The bacteria grow and cause the tomato to rot
There are many things that can hurt your tomatoes as they ripen. A major factor is bacterial growth. When ripe, tomatoes will start to soften and become slightly watery.
As they get more liquid, it gives rise to an even bigger problem-sourness. That sour taste comes from lactic acid which helps preserve the food and make it shelf stable.
However, when there’s too much of it, the texture and flavor becomes less important than preservation!
The culprit behind this souring is a group of microorganisms called lactobacteria. These begin to proliferate as the tomato degrades and releases sugar into its surroundings.
When enough have gathered, they produce gluconic acid and acetic acid which both contribute to the sour taste.
The tomato is picked too early
As mentioned earlier, when a vine-ripened tomato comes into contact with another object, such as your hand, it will stick to that object. This is how we enjoy fresh tomatoes!
However, before the tomato can be eaten, it must be peeled off of its skin. If you don’t remove this skin, then bacteria may grow in the juicy part of the fruit.
This would not only taste bad, but could also cause health problems if some of the acid from the fruit touches your throat or mouth.
So why do these extra steps matter? Because while there are many theories about why tomatoes dry out and crack when they are harvested, one major reason is because the tomato has been picked far ahead of when it is supposed to be.
It might sound crazy, but it happens more than most people think.
How much time does a ripe tomato take to rot on the vine? That depends on the season and variety, but most give us around five days after harvest.
Day 1 – The tomato starts drying out and cracking. It still tastes good, so most people don’t notice this change.
Days 2–5 – Bacteria begin to colonize in the cracks and openings of the dried out tomato. These microbes feed on the sugar content of the tomato and start melting it down.
As the tomato begins to break down, the aroma changes.
The tomato is picked too late
As mentioned before, when tomatoes are grown in greenhouses or under controlled conditions, they do not dry down during processing. This prevents the drying out of the fruit which would promote oxidation, or damage caused by free radicals.
When fresh ripe tomatoes are harvested, their water content can drop below 70 percent which makes them susceptible to spoilage due to exposure to oxygen.
As these fruits sit around until processed, an already-oxidizing enzyme starts breaking down other components of the tomato such as its lycopene (a powerful antioxidant) into compounds that are more soluble so it may be easier to process it later.
This is why some very young red tomatoes will turn brownish yellow even after being refrigerated and cooked — they have lost all of their lycopene prior to harvesting!
Removing mature, dried-out skin also puts stress on the plant tissue which contains higher levels of antioxidants, making it harder to properly preserve the tomato.
The tomato is not properly washed
This is one of the major causes for tomatoes to rot as they grow down in the vine. As you can probably tell, when washing fruits or vegetables, make sure all areas are completely soaked!
If there’s no water coming out, cut off the contact between the fruit and the soil. If it has dried up, soak it more than once before putting it into fresh water.
The skin will also dry up and crack which allows bacteria to enter and start eating away at the plant. Make sure to wash your hands after touching both the broken skin and the raw vegetable.
Another way to prevent this is by using paper towels instead of cloth ones as they don’t spread germs around like cloth ones do. You get the same clean feeling from either type of towel, but just make sure that they’re neither cotton nor latex.