Why Are Tomato Skins Tough? (How to Avoid it)


Have you ever encountered a tomato with callous skin that was almost impossible to bite into it? Well, you are probably very curious to know what causes tough skins on tomatoes. More importantly, you would like to know how to avoid this. This blog post carries all the answers to this.

So, what causes tomatoes to have tough skin? And how can we avoid this? Some of the possible reasons for tough skins on tomatoes are the variety, under watering, high temperatures during growth or too much sunlight, and diseases such as curly top virus or anthracnose.

Nothing compares to the taste of a red, juicy, and ripe tomato that you have just plucked from your garden. We are fond of adding tomatoes to our sandwiches, wraps, sauces, and stews. However, tough skins on the tomato can get in the way of us enjoying this delicacy.

Some varieties of tomatoes like Roma and plum tomatoes have been bred to have thick skins to resist the potential damage from insects. This is a natural occurrence that we can therefore do nothing much about.

For the other causes of tomato skin toughness, we can develop preventive measures to avert this. For instance, adequate watering of the tomato plant would be quite helpful. Moreover, providing a little bit of shade for your tomatoes during the hottest and sunny times of the day will help ensure they are ripe naturally and prevent them from developing tough skins.

For diseases like anthracnose and curly top virus, preventive and control measures during planting are important. Be observant of your plants as they grow. If you notice one tomato fruit has been infected, removing it will help protect the rest of your tomatoes from infection. We will be delving deeper into the numerous reasons behind tough tomato skins and the best ways to ensure this doesn’t happen.

We encourage you to continue reading this blog post for further information on this topic. We assure you that we’ll share actionable solutions to this issue. Stick around!

What causes tomatoes to have tough skin?

Several different reasons contribute to the tough skin on tomatoes. Let us take a keen look at each of these reasons in detail.

Diseases that causes tomatoes to have tough skin

Diseases such as anthracnose and the curly top virus can cause tomatoes to have tough skins. Anthracnose is a fungal disease that not only attacks tomatoes but can also affect other vegetables and plants in your garden. This soil-borne disease can be spread by wind, birds, and insects that induce the bacteria into the soil, initiating the disease.

Once the anthracnose fungus is in the soil, it can get splashed onto the plant through irrigation or rainwater. It can also get to the tomato when it directly touches the ground. The symptoms of anthracnose appear like tough skin, then rotting as the tomato ripens.

On the other hand, the curly top virus is a plant disease transmitted by the beet leafhopper. The disease affects the whole plant and contributes to stunted growth. The leaves of the plant will thicken and curl. The plant will stop growing and die eventually. In other instances, the fruits will ripen prematurely and get bitter and tough leathery skin. This destructive disease affects over 300 species of plants, both edible and non-edible.

There are other diseases that tomatoes can have. I have an article about the diseases that tomatoes can have. You can read it here.

Tomato Variety that causes tomatoes to have tough skin

Some tomato varieties naturally have tough skin than others, and all for a good reason. Roma and plum tomatoes have been bred to have tough skins. This quality is important as it ensures they remain crack resistant. Gardeners who supply tomatoes to supermarkets will prefer these tomato varieties since they are better positioned to arrive at their destination in good shape.

These varieties are also the best for canning and drying. The tough skins work well during the preservation process and ensure the tomato holds together well during the drying process.

Under Watering can cause tomatoes to have tough skin

When a tomato plant is subjected to a situation where it has minimal access to water, the results will manifest themselves in the tomato fruit. The tomato will begin to develop a tough skin.

Getting tough skin is a survival or coping mechanism. When a tomato plant is consistently denied enough water, it will find ways to conserve the little water it gets. A common way that the tomato plant will adopt to conserve water is to develop tomatoes with thick skin. This is because the thick skin on the tomato will ensure it can hold in water better.

High Temperatures can cause tomatoes to have tough skin

High temperatures can cause tomatoes to develop a tough skin. This unfavorable environmental condition will cause the tomato to devise ways to defend itself. The tomato fruit will ripen nicely, but the skin becomes tough in response to the heat.

In other instances, high heat will cause them to ripen unevenly. Tomatoes are ripe naturally at a temperature of 21 to 24 degrees Celsius. When temperatures rise above this, proper ripening is interrupted. This will cause some tough spots or skin on the tomato.

The technique behind the ripening of tomatoes is pigments that are called lycopene and carotene. These components give tomatoes the red color. The tomato plant will not produce lycopene and carotene with too much heat, ripening will be slowed down or stopped, and tomato skin will become tough.

Too much sunlight can cause tomatoes to have tough skin

It is true that, like all plants, tomato plants need sunlight for proper growth. However, intense sunlight can result in tough skins on the tomato. First and foremost, intense sunlight will raise the temperatures and affect the tomato plant, as explained above.

Secondly, too much sunlight will destroy the skin of tomatoes by burning them. Ever had a condition called sunscald? In humans, this condition compares to how we get sunburns. Interestingly, tomatoes can also suffer the same experience.

Exposure to too much sunlight will cause tomatoes to have a blister-like appearance, and they could be white or tanned in color. The skin of the tomato will also be callous.

What are the solutions for tough skins on tomatoes?

Fortunately, there are various preventive measures for the tough skin on tomatoes. Each of the solutions we provide here will be tied to the individual cause of tomato skin toughness.

Disease prevention to avoid tough skins on tomatoes

We pointed out earlier diseases like anthracnose and curly top virus cause tomatoes to have tough skins. As a preventive measure for anthracnose, practicing crop rotation will prove to be quite helpful. Things will also work in your favor if you only use certified disease-free seeds. Additionally, the mulching technique will help by acting as a barrier between the soil and the plant. This way, the disease from the soil will not get to the plant.

Gardeners are advised to be very observant with their plants. Once you notice an infection, cutting off the affected part will prevent the disease from spreading to the entire plant. You can also treat or prevent anthracnose using a safe fungicide like potassium or sodium bicarbonate. The way you water your plants can also prevent this disease. It is advisable that you keep the tomato fruit and leaves dry by watering the base of the plant only using a hosepipe.

To prevent the curly top virus, remove any infected plant as soon as you spot the symptoms. You can also pull away weeds that could potentially carry the virus to prevent the virus from spreading to your tomatoes. Pruning away the center and the top of the plant will improve the plant’s chances of survival.

Moreover, gardeners are advised to choose virus-free and resistant tomato varieties to avoid the disease. Having tomato cages will also assist in keeping away the beet leafhopper.

If you still worry about diseases that your tomato can have. I have a video about diseases and how you will deal with them. Watch it below.

Sufficient watering to prevent tough skins on tomatoes

To ensure your tomatoes do not struggle to conserve water and end up with tough skin, water them sufficiently. A good choice will be drip irrigation that will leave the soil moist and not soaking wet. Alternatively, mulching will go a long way in helping the soil retain moisture. Create a routine for watering your tomato plants and watch how they grow healthy fruits.

Heat and sun protection to prevent tough skins on tomatoes

To prevent the harmful effects of high heat and excessive sunlight, create a sort of shade over your tomato plants. Using a shade cloth will protect your tomato plants from the harmful sun and heat at the peak of the summer season. Additionally, avoiding excessive pruning will help create a shade over your plants. When your tomato plant has sufficient leaves, they will help block away some sun from getting to the plant directly.

What to do with tomatoes with tough skins

It is harvest time, and you notice your tomatoes have already developed a tough skin. You have no option to bring in the preventive measures now that your crop is ready for consumption. Here are some good ways to utilize your tomatoes with tough skins:

Remove the skin and cook them: To do this, you will need to boil some water and place the tomatoes inside for about three minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and place them in a pot of cold water. After they have cooled off, use a knife to remove the tough skin. You now have your fleshy succulent tomatoes. You can use them to prepare a perfect stew, pasta sauce, or pizza sauce.

Alternatively, you can transport them to factories or supermarkets: Tomatoes with tough skins are preferred because they can be transported to a far-off destination and still arrive in good shape. You can sell your tough skin tomatoes to supermarkets and make a handsome profit.

Processing companies will also choose to buy tomatoes with tough skin because they are easy to dry and can. If selling your tomatoes is not a favorable option for you, try this easy method of canning tomatoes at the comfort of your home and preserve them for later use.

Conclusion on why are tomato skins so tough

Tough tomatoes are not enjoyable for those of us who like enjoying them raw. The quality of the tomatoes can also be affected by some of the causal agents of tough skin-like diseases.

We are glad to have finally understood the reason behind the tough skin on tomatoes. What’s more pleasing is knowing that this situation can be avoided by practicing some of the solutions provided in this blog post. It is also comforting to know that, as much as the tomato skins might be tough, but tomato skins can still put them to good and profitable use.

Tomatoes are great to grow especially if you follow the basic rules and growing methods. I wrote a detailed article on growing tomatoes at home to ensure perfect results every time. Read that here.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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