What you see: A tomato that looks red on the outside, but has a green tinge inside its skin.
What it is: A tomato that didn’t mature and/or ripen properly.
Eat or toss: Eat! This tomato is perfectly safe, though it may not be as flavorful.
It’s OK to eat a tomato that has some green in its skin
In the U.S., tomatoes bound for supermarkets are often harvested green and then ripened to red in warehouses. This extends their shelf life and makes it easier to ship them across the country. Simple enough, but to ripen well, the tomatoes have to first mature properly while they’re still on the plant.
“Very often it’s very hard to tell when a tomato is mature green or immature green,” Angelos Deltsidis, an assistant professor in postharvest physiology at the University of Georgia, told me. “Immature green tomatoes will maybe ripen partially, or never ripen. Even if they do ripen their flavor will be poor.”
Deltsidis said farmers typically rely on visual appearance and the number of days in the field when assessing if tomatoes are ready to harvest.
But, as Deltsidis points, out, it can be hard to get it right. And that’s probably the problem with the tomato pictured above.
Tomatoes with green areas may not have properly matured
This tomato was likely harvested while still green and immature and then sent to a ripening room, where it was either left to ripen on its own, or exposed to ethylene, a gas that triggers ripening. (Plants naturally produce ethylene; produce companies also use commercially available ethylene to manage ripening.)
“So it partially ripened but internally those areas weren’t very well developed,” he said. Not all of this tomato’s cells were ready to synthesize those signature red pigments. We can’t count on it to be a top quality tomato.
Another possibility, Deltsidis told me, is that the tomato did mature properly, but simply hadn’t yet ripened fully. If such a tomato is left on the counter for a bit longer, the chlorophyll causing the green color will break down and the tomato will ripen.
But, whether you’re looking at an immature tomato that will never properly ripen, or a mature tomato that’s merely a little unripe, this tomato is absolutely still edible and OK to eat.
Are you seeing green in the “gel” around the seeds? Like below? In that case, check out this post.
- Angelos Deltsidis, Ph.D. Assistant Professor in Postharvest Physiology. Department of Horticulture. University of Georgia.
- Tomato insides a bit green? EatOrToss.com. June 11, 2018.