Alien Tomato

Alien Tomato? Here's the scoop.

By Willi Evans Galloway


If you've ever noticed a seedling growing inside your tomato- yikes! You definitely came across an unusual tomato. Only about one in every 10,000 has seedlings sprouting inside. It's a rare condition called vivipary, in which the natural hormone inhibitors that keep seeds dormant within the fruit break down. While researchers are still trying to pin down what's behind the problem, experts agree that either extreme weather while on the vine or overmaturing in transit could cause the tomato's hormones to become unbalanced.

Your tomato was safe to eat, but it might not have tasted very good, says Stephen Reiners, assistant professor of horticultural science at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Tomato flavor depends on dozens of different compounds—sugars, proteins, organic acids—and a change in hormones could upset this balance.