- Author: JoEllen P Myslik
Spring is the time when many of us think about planting tomatoes. I for one am always fascinated with the tomato- sprouting process when I've started them from seeds myself. But what I was completely mystified by a few weeks ago was discovering sprouts inside some tomatoes I had purchased from my local produce market. I had seen this a time or two before in store-bought tomatoes (never my own homegrown ones) and at the time determined I had just kept them around too long and they were overripe. That was probably true with my previous experiences, but this time, I knew I had purchased these tomatoes less than a week prior. Each time the tomatoes were of the on-the-vine variety.
When I saw these sprouts in the past, I scolded myself for not consuming my tomatoes fast enough, but gave them a second life in my compost bin. This time, I really really wanted to have the tomatoes with my breakfast, so I did a taste-test and although they didn't taste awesome, I deemed them edible enough to consume. However, a few hours later I regretted that decision since I experienced very similar symptoms to food poisoning. Although my symptoms did not last as long as other times when I have experienced food poisoning, it was still not the least bit fun.
I wasn't completely sure that the tomatoes were the culprit, so I did some investigation online and found several articles about tomatoes that had begun sprouting on the inside, otherwise known as vivipary. Vivipary is Latin for live birth and is the term for plants that begin growing while still inside or attached to the mother plant. According to an article on the University of Connecticut College of Agricultural and Natural Resources Extension site, it is common in certain varieties of tomatoes, peppers, apple, pears, and some citrus. 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.
Apparently I had unknowingly created the perfect environment in my kitchen and had three tiny greenhouses sprouting tomatoes right on my counter. And these sprouts were about to pop right through the skin of the tomato, so I could have taken them out to my garden and planted them.
But the mystery remained … were these sprouts what caused me to become ill? I didn't find much information to support that theory, but since there were at least a few stories of these sprouts being potentially toxic and some people becoming ill, then it must be true, right? Well, since I couldn't connect my illness with anything else I ate, and since my dining companion did not become ill after we ate exactly the same meal except for the tomatoes, then I have concluded that the sprouts are the culprit. I have vowed to never let my future tomatoes get too ripe, and if they do, never to let sproutlings cross my lips again. Tomato Consumers Beware!