After learning that Costco customers were finding strange sprouts inside their tomatoes, we were left with several questions. First of all, why do those tomatoes have sprouts? And secondly, is it actually safe to eat tomatoes with sprouts growing inside them? Or, should you remove the sprouts like you would with sprouted potatoes? For more information, we reached out to Isabel Maples, a nutritionist and registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
"Sprouted tomatoes are safe to eat," Maples tells Hunker. "However, the tomatoes may not actually taste their best ... A primary reason why the seeds inside a tomato may sprout is because the tomato is getting overripe." According to N.C. Cooperative Extension, this is also known as vivipary.
Video of the Day
Specifically, when tomatoes become overripe, Maples explains, "The natural hormone in the tomato that controls seed dormancy is getting old, so without that hormone suppressing seed growth, the warm, moist inside of the tomato provides a good environment for the seeds to grow."
In addition to the tomato becoming overripe, there are also other reasons why a tomato might begin to grow sprouts on the inside. Maples adds that keeping tomatoes in cold storage at less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit and them moving them to a warmer environment can cause inner sprouts. The same can be caused by low potassium content in the tomato or over-fertilizing the plant with nitrogen.
How to properly store tomatoes:
To prevent your tomatoes from growing sprouts, you'll want to store them properly. According to the USDA's FoodKeeper App, storing your tomatoes in the pantry (as opposed to the refrigerator) is advised. You can also freeze your tomatoes if you plan to eat them down the line, and the USDA recommends consuming these within two months from the date of purchase.