The Land Rover Owners Wife

Green (or even yellow) shouldered tomatoes


This picture is deceptive: these tomatoes had green shoulders.

This picture is deceptive: the top tomato had green shoulders, the lower one had yellow.

Who even knew that tomatoes had shoulders because I certainly didn’t. I do now and I also now know the reason why several of my tomatoes are sporting totally unnecessary green or yellow ones! You ‘ll never guess, not in a month of Sundays (unless that is you’ve experienced the same problem)…….

……. apparently my tomatoes have had too much sun!

How is that even possible?

I live in the UK for crying out loud! The NORTH of the UK at that!

Yes, we’ve had a few weeks of sunshine and high humidity which could in fact be designated ‘summer’ but even so …. too much sun for a tomato!!! Never would I have thought that this would be the cause of my interestingly coloured tomatoes.

Of course, at first sight I thought my bumper crop had merely fallen victim to some hitherto unknown pest or disease and so turned to Google for help. A quick search led me to, an informative site which revealed that this was not an unusual occurrence, nor was it the result of some exotic virus, or root burrowing bug.

No, the problem was that the tomatoes, had been exposed to too much intense sunshine and heat over a long period of time, whilst they were growing on the vine. Whilst the plant itself was relishing these conditions, the affect of the  heat (75F/24C and above) and sunshine on the tomatoes, over this prolonged period, was that Lycopene production was inhibited (Lycopene is the pigment that gives tomatoes their red colour) whilst the break down of Chlorophyll  was prevented (chlorophyll is the pigment that causes the green colour). So put the two together and the green colour remained strong and prevented the red from appearing. Only the top or shoulders of the fruit had been affected because this was the section of the tomato which had been most exposed to the heat and sun.

The same principle applies to yellow shoulders which are caused by Carotene (the pigment that produces yellow and orange) being less affected by the heat than the aforementioned Lycopene.

Looked odd but tasted fab.

Looked odd but tasted fab.

Thankfully and unlike many problems with vegetables growing, the solution to this particular problem is straightforward and requires nothing more than to provide some shading for the remaining tomatoes. Also the tomatoes are still edible, although I would recommend slicing off the green or yellow section as these won’t taste very nice. We have enjoyed the red sections of our affected tomatoes and these have been just as tasty as the unaffected fruits we have eaten.

Staying with the tomatoes, the Mudlets had a strange looking tomato with their tea last night. I have no idea why it grew in this particular way, as it was hanging free on the plant with no obstructions. It was the same variety as the perfect specimen that featured in my seed saving post the other day and yet other than the colour red, it bore no resemblance at all to its’ compatriot. Very strange.

Little Mudlet did want me to save the seeds from this tomato but I thought better of it ….. I mean I don’t want to sound like the supermarkets or anything but really!!! I think not.


5 thoughts on “Green (or even yellow) shouldered tomatoes

  1. Hi Elaine. Thanks for that description of what happens when the tomatoes are sun burnt. I just took it as they were sun burnt and never thought any deeper.
    There is a technical term for your odd tomato, but for the life of me can’t remember what it is. It has something to do with damage or stress occurring at the point when it was germinated. It is a nice big word that rolls off the tongue and is one of those words that make people think you know what you are talking about. “Oh that will be [insert big word here]…” It will come to me in the middle of the night!
    Enjoy your harvest.
    Cheers Sarah : o )

    • Hi Sarah,

      I’d never come across ‘sunburnt’ tomatoes before but, based on recent summers and my relative newness to vegetable growing, that’s probably not surprising.

      In fact, I haven’t grown main crop tomatoes for the last three years or so because we always seemed to run out of sunny, dry weather before most of the tomatoes ripened. Cooler, damper weather towards the end of summer, caused the plants to fail and so we ended up picking the vast majority of the crop whilst it was still green. Cherry tomatoes ripened faster, so we switched growing them.

      The Stupice was advertised as an early tomato which has proved to be correct, hence the reason for growing it but of course that put it right in the middle of a prolonged (by UK standards) hot spell, resulting in the hitherto unnoticed by me sunburn 😀

      Lesson learned 😉

  2. Well, I never knew that and it seems amazing that it can happen in England. My greenhouse tomatoes have fallen foul of that terrible disease called “whoops, forgot to water the plants for a while”. There’s been so much rain that I forget that it doesn’t actually water the greenhouse too – obviously need to rig up some sort of irrigation system like a Wimbledon style roof opening.

    • Lol, just got in from a day out with the Mudlets and your comment reminds me that the greenhouses need watering 🙂 ….. but it is raining now (been warm and dry all day), so I will have my coffee first 🙂

      Love the idea of a Wimbledon style roof for the greenhouses though ……. 😉

  3. Well I never! Sunburnt toms? I would have thought I’d have heard of it living in a very sunny part of NZ but it’s a new one on me. I’m about to plant some Toms. I’m going to annoy Mr Fig horribly and germinate them on the heated bathroom floor hee hee!

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