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first ‘ripe’ tomatoes: uh-oh, green shoulders!

tomatoes with green shoulders
AND THE WINNER IS…GREEN SHOULDERS. I feel as if every year the first tomatoes to ripen here put me to a little test. As if I hadn’t waited long enough, they almost make it to the finish line, but then don’t, exactly. Last year my first fruits had blossom end rot, which like the green shoulders of this year’s issue (above), is not a disease but a physiological problem usually attributed to stress from weather, particularly in susceptible varieties.

The fruits above (which are ‘San Marzano 2’) got exposed to too much heat and sun while ripening, which caused the chlorophyll up toward the stem end to fail to break down and give way to other pigments. Again, apparently some varieties are more inclined to have this issue surface under such stress than others that are more resistant; I have read that heirlooms are more inclined to green shoulders than hybrids, but who knows if that is so? Sometimes the color shifts to yellow (called yellow shoulders, of course)–but even then, not to red.

The good news is that assuming subsequent fruits don’t get roasted and toasted on the vine, they’ll be fine. These two were on the lower part of the plant where some foliage had dried and dropped off, leaving them out in the altogether during the recent heatwave. If the plants had lost foliage where other fruit are forming, leaving them vulnerable, too, I’d provide some shade with a knitted fabric, forming a loose tent to block maybe 30 percent of the light or so.

Having your own tomato troubles? Misery loves company, so jump right in and let us know. (Or consult my Tomato Troubles FAQ’s if you want to do some homework right away on what’s up and how to handle it.)