Its greenish or yellowish ring is appropriately referred to as green (or yellow) shoulders, and it is hard to the touch, particularly when contrasted to the remainder of the matured fruit.
However, there is little you can do once these bothersome shoulders are revealed.
However, there are ways to prevent green and yellow shoulders from occurring altogether. Fortunately, everything is simple.
What Are Green Shoulders?
Green shoulders arise when the unripe upper portion of a tomato hardens and stays green.
As the tomato starts to ripen, chlorophyll (the pigment that gives young tomatoes their green color) begins to break down and is replaced by lycopene. Lycopene is a pigment found in tomatoes and other red or pink fruits that gives them their red color when mature.
Lycopene production is most efficient between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures that rise and stay above 70F consistently hinder lycopene production.
Even though tomatoes often thrive in the heat, it is this constant exposure to heat that affects their shoulders. Temperatures in and around the fruit might stay high if humidity levels rise.
Chlorophyll is also affected by heat. Too much heat prevents chlorophyll from breaking down, either altogether or too slowly.
When tomatoes are exposed to too much heat and light for an extended length of time, chlorophyll accumulates, turning the tomatoes green.
The lower parts of the tomato remain protected from the foliage and the top of the fruit. As a result, the severely impacted sections are those near the stem.
What About Yellow Shoulders?
Yellow shoulder is essentially the same problem with a different name. Since the shoulders become a greenish or yellowish tint, some horticulturists use the terms interchangeably.
Yellow shoulders may also be caused by a lack of lycopene synthesis, although research has shown that alkaline soil with low potassium levels can also induce yellow shoulders.
Other hypothesis state that too much beta-carotene could also be involved. Carotene is an orange pigment found in plants. When you expose your tomatoes to too much sunlight, carotene becomes more visible. That, combined with reduced lycopene production, causes the tops to stay yellow.
Yellow and green shoulder might also be caused by the tomato variety you’re planting. Some are more susceptible to this condition than others.
Can You Eat Tomatoes With Green Or Yellow Shoulders?
If you’ve ever eaten an unripe tomato (accidentally or on purpose), you’ll know that it’s generally sour and hard. That’s how the ends of a yellow/green shouldered tomato taste.
Luckily, the rest of the tomato remains unaffected, and will be completely safe and delicious to eat. Just clip off the ends and your green shoulder issues will be forgotten.
Preventing Green/Yellow Shoulders
Pruning tomato plants is a much debated topic. There are certainly benefits – cutting back foliage increases airflow and keeps your tomato plant small and manageable.
Even better, it may yield bigger, more abundant fruits. The increased airflow reduces the likelihood of disease and more energy is directed toward producing more fruit, instead of more foliage.
Nevertheless, excessive pruning may produce issues. Removing the foliage surrounding your tomatoes reduces the natural protection provided by the leaves. You run the danger of overexposing your tomatoes to the sun, increasing the likelihood of green and yellow shoulders.
Pruning is best reserved for indeterminate tomatoes as they continue to grow, rather than determinate tomato plants with a limited number of fruits that ripen all at once. Pruning should be done sparingly and only when necessary to gain the advantages.
Tomatoes enjoy the sun, but its rays are a major source of green or yellow shoulder. Shading tomato plants is one of the best ways to protect your tomatoes from the relentless sun, while still giving them all the light they need.
When done appropriately, this maximizes photosynthesis while decreasing heat buildup. It will also improve the tomato’s overall health as it won’t lose too much water, allowing the plant to spend all its energy on producing larger, redder tomatoes.
Just planting your tomatoes in places of your garden where natural shade is formed throughout the day is one technique to provide shade. In high-heat climates, plant them next to an east-facing wall so they receive full morning sun but remain protected from the full extent of the afternoon’s rays.
A supported shade cloth arrangement is the most typical approach to shade your tomatoes during small heat waves. This is a short-term solution that meets everyone’s demands. You may provide more or less shade dependent on the plant’s needs by varying the kind and density of the fabric.
Choose the right variety
Certain tomato types are more vulnerable to green shoulders than others. Heirloom tomatoes are more vulnerable than hybrid tomatoes. Some gardeners have found that dark purple or black varieties are also more likely to develop green shoulders than red, yellow, or orange ones.
When purchasing seeds or young plants, keep an eye out to discover which varieties are susceptible. The seed packet may also mention resistance to the condition – ideal for extremely hot climates.
Ripen off the vine
Picking your tomatoes just before they’re ripe may help prevent yellow and green shoulder, as they will no longer be in direct sunlight and extreme heat. This is just for exceptional circumstances when you don’t want to jeopardize the delicious tastes of vine-ripened tomatoes.
It is best to pick healthy-looking tomatoes when they are on the verge of ripening – typically when a little bit of red begins to peak through the green skin. They will continue to create ethylene gas and ripen if left alone on the kitchen counter, although it may take some time.
To speed up the process, store your picked tomatoes with ripe apples or bananas, as both produce ethylene gas. A cardboard box or even a paper bag kept at room temperature and out of the sun would suffice. To aid the ripening process, provide enough ventilation and low humidity levels.
Therefore, having green or yellow shoulders is not the end of the world. Your tomatoes will still be completely edible after being sliced off. But while it’s not the end of the world, it’s certainly not ideal either. Implement these tips to protect your tomatoes from green shoulders, and you can avoid this pesky problem altogether.