Seeds Sprouting Inside Tomato

Our mystery last week had to do with seeds.

mystery-tomato

The brown bumps on the outside of the tomato were the clue.

tomato-seeds-sprouting-inside

You might have been able to guess if I had shown you this view instead. Do you see the stems and green bits under the tomato skin?

tomato-seeds-sprouting-peeled

Peeling back the tomato covering, those are tomato seedlings sprouting inside the tomato fruit.

tomato-seeds-sprouting-opened

If you open it up to the center, you can see the seeds are sprouting from inside the tomato. It wasn't rotten or mushy at all. All the tomatoes in this cluster that I had purchased from the grocery store had sprouting seeds.

It turns out that it isn't all that uncommon for certain cultivars of tomatoes to do this, particularly the "tomatoes-on-the-vine" variety from the grocery store.

The first part of this video explains it is called vivipary when the seeds sprout inside the fruit, usually when still attached to the mother plant.

 

We also regularly see seeds sprouting inside our pink grapefruit towards the end of the season.

grapefruit-seed-sprouting-in-fruit

These are from fruit still hanging on the tree.

grapefruit-seed-sprouting-inside

Can you see the long root?

 

Have you ever opened a fruit and found a seed sprouting?

43 thoughts on “Seeds Sprouting Inside Tomato

  1. Jim Capra

    On the sprouting Vine Tomatoes (The seeds within),can they still me eaten? Are they safe to eat in this sprouting state? The insides sure look weird. The outside skin looks ok. You say that the sprouts can grow thru the skin sometimes. At what point would you not eat the tomato,or would you in any case? Thank you.
    JC

  2. Post author

    Actually, I did try a little bit of the fruit and it didn't taste very good. Obviously there had been some chemical changes going on with the sprouting. I don't know for sure, but since the green part of tomato plants are thought to be poisonous, it is likely the sprouts might be, too, at least under certain conditions. I probably wouldn't eat it.

  3. Can you remove the seed so that you can Plant the sprouting tomato plants? Also if you remove the sprouts can you still be able to eat them?I found the sprouts upon opening the tomato I was going to have for my lunch but found it was lumpy so I remmoved the sprouts I found in the tomato and sliced off a part to taste. I found it quite bitter but other wise okay is it a wise desicion to cook the tomatoes to eat?

  4. Post author

    Will,

    There are changes in the tomato that occur as the seeds sprouts that do make it unappealing. I think someone needs to study whether the sprouting tomatoes are okay to eat. Any botanists/food scientists out there looking for a project?

  5. Mickele Bragg

    This happened to me yesterday. Is it possible to continue growing the sprouts for planting?

  6. Linda

    Had this happen w/ tomato I bought in march. After 6 weeks-I sliced it on the sides and stuck it in dirt. Just because it seemed do determined. I just planted it in my garden today. It's about two feet tall. I hope it survives.

  7. Karen

    I bought a couple tomatoes 5 days ago and just noticed 2 have sprouts popping out of them. I'd love to know more about whether I should try to grow them further. Any updates Linda or advice from anyone? I should mention that I have very little experience with gardening.

  8. Post author

    Depending on where you are, it might be late to plant them outdoors in a garden. You might try planting them in potting soil in a good-sized pot. If they do well, you can bring them indoors when there is a chance of frost and try finishing them in a sunny window or under a plant light.

  9. Karen

    I'm in Florida so frost shouldn't be a problem. 🙂

    However, I would be putting them a pot. Should I just cut them open and remove the sprouts and seeds and put them in the soil? Or do I need to prepare them somehow? Someone suggested I plant the whole tomato? I'm clueless but excited to give it a try. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

  10. Post author

    Personally, I cut them open and planted individual seedlings. If you have enough pots, you could gently cut it roughly in half, plant the seedlings from one half and plant the other half whole. If you do that, I'd love to hear how it turns out.

    BTW, mine didn't grow, but I didn't plant them under very good conditions, either. It was too hot.

  11. susan stanich

    I'm 73 and have been growing and eating tomatoes all my life, and today is the first time I opened a tomato (commercially grown) to see sprouting seeds inside. One expects them from citrus, but tomatoes? I'm wondering whether this is some GMO-caused anomaly. Does anyone know whether this has happened in the pre-Monsanto days?

  12. Post author

    Susan,

    I know, finding sprouting tomato seeds is a big surprise when you first discover them. It seems to be mostly associated with certain varieties that are now being sold "on the vine", but they are not GMO varieties. All sorts of plants are being selected and handled for longer than normal shelf life, and this may be one of the consequences

  13. Sheryl

    This article about the Tomato sprouting inside was very interesting as I had never seen this before it was so truly helpful... Thank you... 😃

  14. nadia kelly

    Rutgers has been growing such tasteless tomatoes with long shelf life for decades. I grew up in New Jersey when they grew tasty tomatoes. What do they do to them to prolong shelf life? Anything harmful?

  15. Post author

    Nadia,

    One way shelf-life is prolonged in tomatoes (and other fruit) is by increasing calcium levels. Calcium is applied as calcium chloride prior to or even after harvest.

    Mostly it is simply by selecting for plants with fruit that last a long time and using those seeds to produce new varieties. And yes, taste was rarely a criterion. Interestingly, I recently read that when bananas where hit by a devastating disease in the past, great care was taken to select a variety that was both resistant to the disease and tasted good. If only the tomato growers had also insisted on good flavor.

  16. C J Greinke

    I recently got a tip for keeping tomatoes on the vine fresh longer and that was to rest them upside down on the vine. It really works. Kept them fresh for about 2 weeks. However, the last one I sliced was beginning to sprout from within. To me, that is very "alien" in my farmers experience. Having grown tomatoes my whole life, I've never known one to sprout from within. Hopefully this is not harmful to us. It won't stop me from eating them, I'll just eat them quicker because it just looks weird and creepy to see them growing themselves.

  17. Post author

    If I hadn't already seen seeds sprouting inside our grapefruit after they hang on the tree too long, I think it would have seemed more weird. It does fly in the face of the conventional wisdom that tomato seeds have to be "fermented" before they will germinate, but after doing some experiments I never found that to be the case anyway.

  18. Dawne

    I just sliced one this morning and put it in my omelette, the whole thing was ruined. We have to wait to see if it is poisonous, I guess. I didn't think about it until I was done.

  19. Alex

    As a Food Science major, I find this very interesting, and really hope someone looks into the effects of the sprouts on the fruit itself.

  20. Jess

    I have been buying yellow tomatoes from my local farmer's market for the last few weeks and almost every single one of them has, I do not know if it is different from the red tomato but they taste fine to me

  21. Priya

    Recently I found sprouting seeds inside few pomegranates. The skin of the fruit was normal, without any indication of sprouting seeds.
    It's usually difficult to trace out such seeds. Is it fine to consume them?

  22. Post author

    Priya,

    Thank you for sharing your interesting finding. Because pomegranate plants aren't toxic, I don't think it would be a problem. Sprouted tomatoes might be a different story because the foliage of tomatoes does contain some toxins.

  23. susan

    tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family, and only the actual fruit, not the sprouts, is edible - the green part of the plant is quite unpalatable, probably nature's way of saying 'watch out'

  24. barbara

    okay so I read all the comments. I have eaten tomatoes that have sprouted and just took the sprout part out. The flesh of the tomato still had great taste so I ate it. Guess it's the farmers market for me for these kinds of things and see if it makes a difference. could be I just let them sit too long too. won't make that mistake again. Thanks for all the information!!

  25. Erica

    Sprouts are really good for you. I just cut a tomato and ate some and tasted just like any other bean sprout I've had before. Some people tell others not to eat sprouts if your immune system is low bc of the risk of listeria but I can't imagine that being the case from sprouts on the inside of the tomatoe. The tomatoe I am eating now tastes perfectly normal with the sprouts. I would think it actually would make the tomatoe more nutrient dense/ alive since it is giving life.

  26. MICHELE MATTEO

    I grow grape or cherry tomatoes on my deck every year and they sprout if left on the plant too long so I don't think it's GMO related. I used to toss the over ripe ones off my deck until I realized I had several plants growing on the ground beneath. Obviously too late too fruit though.

  27. Bess Trainer

    I just ate half a yellow tomato with sprouts inside. Strange looking animal. The sprouts looked like worms at first, didn't move, and had green parts. Realized they were sprouting seeds. Ate it anyway. Guess I will find out tonite or tomorrow if that was a good thing. Will let you know.

  28. Candice

    My little tomato sitting on the counter has a tiny stem coming out of it.
    I have been watching it and now it is getting a tiny leaf and more bumps for more leaves.
    I have never seen this before but I love it 🙂

  29. desert

    A year or so ago, I read an article about a man that had a tomato plant growing in his stomach! Bet anything its from these type tomatos, I have tried them,, don't like the taste, the appearance or even the idea of eating a tomato that is sprouting!

  30. Kirk Howard

    If I tried to grow them indoors over the winter in a window would they need very much sunlight, as there is no light inside the tomatoes while they are sprouting?

  31. Post author

    Kirk,

    When a seedling sprout, it uses nutrients from the seed to grow. Eventually when those nutrients are gone it will need sunlight to make its food. You might let them start indoors and move them out after the danger of frost is past.

  32. Post author

    Well, you might not want to believe everything you read. The stomach is full of a strong acid that would make that impossible.

  33. Pam

    I have been buying "on-the-vine" tomatoes for years and have noticed them sprouting several times. I always leave them on the vine to prolong shelf-life. I have eaten them while newly sprouted, before they start seeking the outside and they are fine. Now, I have noticed some I didn't eat in time are breaking through their skins and have newby leaves. I am going to try different methods of growing them to see what works. I will leave all sitting in the windowsill (mostly shaded but above the kitchen sink ) since they seem to sprout from the window lit side and like it there. I will likely move them to more sun after (if) they develop mature leaves.
    1. I scooped one seedling out with a spoon leaving a bit of the mother fruit attached and put it in a small pot with moist soil.
    2. Next, I'm going to try cutting one in half and place the cut ends face down in soil to see if the sprouts will seek the soil.
    3. I have one more which I will simply place undisturbed on some soil to see if the new plants continue getting nutrients from the mother fruit and eventually find the dirt.
    Since tomatoes are somewhat acidic, I am guessing they will need the mother fruit for awhile. I live in the mountains at 6500' elevation. I don't have high hopes, but, you never know!! Will post results!

  34. I am 78 years old. I was born and raised on farms in New York, Maine, Vermont, New Jersey and Texas. We grew our own veggies including tomatoes everywhere we lived. But never did have any indoor sprouts. New Jersey, where I've lived for the last 55 yrs. has always had the BEST tasting tomatoes. I've traveled all around the US and have eaten tomatoes from NY. to Calif. and Maine to Texas, NJ. is the best. About 6 mos. ago I cut a tomato that had been sitting on my counter for 5 or 6 days, a nice solid one, not one that came attached to a vine. When I cut it open I was in awe of what I saw. I thought I had encountered something from another planet. The inside of it was a tangled mass of sprouts, no indication of them on the outside. I thought maybe I should take it outside and burn it or stomp it to death before it came to life or hatched and tried to kill me. Any one remember the old horror film, "The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers"? Well, that's what it reminded me of. Needless to say I was not about to eat this alien creature.

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