If you’ve babied your tomatoes all summer only to find a bunch of cracked ones when you’re ready to harvest, you may wonder what to do with split tomatoes. Are they safe to eat? Why do they split? Is there anything you can do to prevent this from happening?
Here are some things to know about tomatoes that split and what you can do with them.
Why Do Tomatoes Split?
First, it helps to understand what causes tomatoes to split on the vine in the first place. Usually, fruits split on the vine due to changes in hydration while they are growing. When a tomato plant doesn’t have enough water, and then a lot of water all of a sudden (like in a nice, cool, summer rain), the fruit can grow too fast and end up cracking.
Keeping steady hydration to your tomatoes will prevent them from splitting, most of the time. Don’t let them dry too much. Use a rain gauge to help keep track of how much water the plants may be getting on average. And while you cannot control the weather, you can manually water your tomatoes if there hasn’t been a lot of rain.
It’s also important to note that tomatoes grown in containers or pots will need to be watered more frequently because their soil will dry out faster. You can use a sprinkler system, drip irrigation, or other tools to help you keep your tomatoes evenly watered, even if you’re going away on vacation for a bit.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to prevent it, your tomatoes might split or get some small cracks in them (learn more about how to prevent split tomatoes). What can you do with them?
What to Do with Split Tomatoes
Probably the most important thing to do with tomatoes that split is to pick them off the vine and use them as soon as possible. Most of the time, you can use split tomatoes the same as you would regular tomatoes unless you waited too long and your tomatoes got invaded by unwanted pests through the cracks, or they became soft or moldy. When the cut or crack is deep, or it’s been split and still on the vine for a long time that bacteria or fungi can set in.
Here are some ideas on what to do with the split fruits that are otherwise in good shape.
1. Eat them right away
When the fruit is newly cracked and the tomato is otherwise fine to eat, you can usually go ahead and eat it. Use it in your salad, make a sandwich, or add it to soups and sauces.
2. Cut away the split part
Sometimes when a tomato splits, it can heal itself on the vine and keep growing. When this happens, there may be a hard part of the fruit around the crack. If everything else looks good, you can just cut that part away and eat the rest of it. Some people use these split ones when chopping tomatoes for recipes like salsa or pasta sauce.
3. Make homemade ketchup
You can use those split tomatoes to make homemade ketchup or tomato sauce/paste and preserve it for future use. Homemade pizza sauce is another popular option. These sauces can also be frozen to store them even longer.
4. Make homemade jam or preserves
Follow the instructions above to know if a split tomato is still safe for consumption. If it is, but just doesn’t look pretty, it’s perfect for recipes like jam and preserves.
5. Dice them up for a salad
You can also chop them up and use them as a salad topper, in omelets, or even on top of a baked chicken dish.
6. Freeze them
Since they need to be used or preserved right away, you can freeze them raw or cooked and this will preserve them for when you are ready to use them. If frozen right away, there will be no time for any disease or rot to set in.
7. Dry/dehydrate or roast them
Another option that works to preserve them for consumption later, is to dry or dehydrate them or roast them. If there are bad parts around the crack, you can simply cut it away during the prepping process.
8. Make tomato juice
Tomato juice is really easy to make and such a nice, refreshing drink! you can drink it right away, or freeze it for later. YUM!
9. Feed them to the chickens
If you can’t get much out of your split tomatoes (cherry tomatoes are small, so usually if they split, there isn’t much to do about it) and have chickens, they’ll love getting a treat of ripe tomatoes. And you get eggs and compost in return 😉
10. Toss them into the compost bin
When you just cannot salvage any part of the split tomato, you can always use them in the compost bin. I like to try every other solution first but sometimes; they just aren’t salvageable. If they’re at risk of having bacteria or fungal infection, they’re not safe for consumption.
What to Do with Split Tomatoes FAQ
Remember that while split tomatoes can usually still be eaten, they don’t keep for long once they are split. The protective barrier of the skin is opened, allowing bacteria or fungi to set in, and also makes it easier for pests to get in. You need to eat them or preserve them quickly.
Can you eat tomatoes with splits in them?
Usually, yes. If the split is small and only affects the surface of the fruit, then it’s generally safe to eat. However, if it goes deeper into the fruit or is very large, it increases the risk of bacteria and fungal infection, which can transfer to you if you eat it.
How do I stop my tomatoes from splitting?
The best way to stop tomatoes from splitting is to be sure they are well hydrated as they grow. You can also check your tomatoes daily and look for cracks so you can harvest them when they are new/small if they do get split.
Why do tomatoes split after picking?
Sometimes the tomatoes will split after they have been picked. This usually happens when washing the freshly picked tomatoes because of pressure applied to an already stretched tomato skin. These are perfectly fine to eat.
As you can see, there are still many ways to enjoy tomatoes even if they have split. In most cases, it’s still okay to eat these tomatoes. You need to eat or preserve them right away before they have time for rot to set in, so consider this list of ideas. What’s your favorite thing to make from split tomatoes?
Lisa Clark is a freelance writer who grew up on farmland, then moved to the city, and has now retired back to her rural roots. She's having fun teaching her kids about gardening, planting flowers, and collecting houseplants.