Mealy grainy bland tomatoes

Asked August 4, 2014, 12:58 PM EDT

04Aug2014: A co-worker asked what could cause tomatoes he picked last weekend to be mealy, grainy, bland. Varieties were Roma and Early Girl. They were red and firm when picked and he sampled them same day after picking. A Better Boy tomato he picked the next day was sweet, plump, juicy. His observation is that all plants are looking healthy, no spots or problems appearing on leaves. Has not tested soil (so I recommended soil test). Feeding is weekly using all-purpose Miracle Gro 15-30-15. Because the unfortunate tomatoes occurred on two varieties, I suspect cultural conditions, particularly the relatively mild Summer this year with nights dipping into 60's and a few nights in 50's. Locale: Farmington Hills, MI Expert insights will be very appreciated.

Oakland County Michigan

1 Response

Hello, Your co-worker is not alone. There have been several (at least) questions on the issue this 2014 season. Several things can cause mealy, tasteless tomatoes. Here are some to consider. This summer has had many cool, below 60 degree F, nights. Tomatoes do not grow or ripen well below 60. Some varieties have had the flavor bred out of them, in order to make them shippable to retailers. Home growers should check and be sure they are not growing these varieties. Also, if seed was saved from a hybrid tomato and used to start a plant, or ‘volunteer’ plants were grown, a tasteless tomato can be the result. Overly hot soil, because a single layer of plastic mulch was used around the plant, can cause the tomato to not take up enough potassium, even when the soil has plenty of potassium. Tomato fruit received too much direct sun. Tomato fruit need to be shaded by the plant’s leaves during ripening to prevent sun-scalded skin. Even if the skin is red, with too much direct sun the fruit inside can be under-ripe. A soil test is a good idea to confirm the basic nutrients are there. One is available at www.msusoiltest.com I am including some links from some of the other “A-a-E” question/answers, and some I have found, on this topic: Commercial varieties, and affects of chilling: http://jscms.jrn.columbia.edu/cns/2007-04-24/millstone-tastelesstomatoes.html http://ucanr.edu/sites/MarinMG/Marin_Master_Gardener_Independent_Journal_Articles/?uid=372&ds=275 Other ripening problems: http://extension.udel.edu/weeklycropupdate/?tag=tomato http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/tomato/colordisorder.htm If your co-worker wants to try and compensate for our cool nights, please read these articles that address growing tomatoes in cooler climates. These articles will give you some ideas on how to keep tomatoes ‘happier,’ should our cool nights continue through the summer: See “Season Extenders” section of this publication: http://learningstore.uwex.edu/assets/pdfs/a3687.pdf This article also has some ideas on “season extenders” that could be used now: http://www.cals.uidaho.edu/edcomm/pdf/bul/bul0864.pdf Of course, if floating row covers are used they should be folded back from the plant each morning so the plant is exposed to full sun all day, then cover the plants each evening after the sun has set. I hope this information is helpful. Please write again if you have more questions. Thank you for using our service.