7 Reasons Your Homegrown Tomatoes Are Mealy & What to Do About It!

Mealy potatoes are a common problem among gardeners. If you’re growing your own tomatoes this summer, you may be wondering why they seem to be mealy and not quite right. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the 7 most common reasons your homegrown tomatoes turn out mealy – and what you can do about it!

What is a Mealy tomato?

Mealy tomatoes are those that have a mealy or grainy texture. They have a strange mouthfeel and often lack flavor.

The consistency of a mealy tomato is almost like a chunky paste. I’ve heard others describe it as similar to a thick cornstarch and water mixture.

I’d describe the texture as gritty, but not with hard grains like sand, but more like the mealy flour mixture you’d find in a box of Bisquick.

They often taste watery or bland. Sometimes, mealy tomatoes will have an off-flavor that is difficult to pinpoint.

While mealy tomatoes are not necessarily bad for you, they can be frustrating to eat!

So, why do your homegrown tomatoes turn out mealy? Let’s take a look at seven possible culprits.

7 Reasons Your Tomatoes are Mealy

Here are 7 common reasons your tomatoes might be mealy, plus what to do about it!

1 – Inconsistent watering

Tomatoes depend on a consistent supply of water. If you let your tomatoes dry out too much or if you water them erratically, this can lead to mealy tomatoes.

The soil should never be bone-dry and cracked, but it shouldn’t be a soppy, soggy mess either.

Aim to water your tomatoes about once a week, or more frequently if needed. Check the soil before watering and only water if the top inch or so is dry.

The Solution: Water your tomatoes consistently. Amounts can vary based on your climate and weather.

As a general rule of thumb, aim to water daily for the first two weeks (preferably in the morning). After the first 10 to 14 days, give your plants about an inch or two of water per week.

Check the soil before watering to make sure it is dry several inches down. And never saturate the soil so it is soggy.

2 – Lack of nutrients and minerals

Tomatoes need a steady supply of nutrients and minerals to grow properly. If your plants are lacking in these vital nutrients, it can lead to mealy tomatoes.

If your tomatoes are mealy, you might have issues with one of these three nutrients:

Nitrogen (N)

Nitrogen plays a key role in tomato fruit development. It is responsible for the green leaves on your tomato plant.

If your tomato plants are lacking nitrogen, they will have yellow leaves and stunted growth. Tomato plants that receive too much nitrogen will grow excessive vines and might flower late.

Potassium (K)

Potassium is important for the overall health of your tomato plant. It helps the plant to resist disease and helps with water uptake. It’s a key component in the development of fruit.

If your tomato plants are lacking potassium, they will have small, pale leaves. The edges of the leaves may be brown or burnt looking. Fruit may be small and mealy with sunken areas.

If your tomato plants are lacking potassium, they will have small, pale leaves. The edges of the leaves may be brown or burnt looking.

It is possible for your tomato plants to receive too much potassium. In this case, it can lead to a nitrogen deficiency.

Calcium (Ca)

Calcium is important for the development of a strong cell wall. This is what gives tomatoes their firm texture.

If your tomato plants are lacking calcium, you may see blossom end rot. This is a condition where the bottom of the fruit begins to rot and turn black. The fruit may also be small and mealy with thin skin.

To prevent mealy tomatoes, make sure your plants are getting enough of these vital nutrients. You can do a soil test to see what might be lacking in your garden.

The Solution: Test your soil and add amendments as needed.

A soil test will tell you what nutrients are lacking in your garden. You can then add amendments to the soil to correct the problem.

Compost is a great way to add nutrients and minerals to your garden. You can also use manure or other organic matter.

In some cases, you may need to use fertilizer. Be sure to follow the directions on the package. Over-fertilizing can also lead to mealy tomatoes!

3 – Tomato type

Some tomato varieties are mealy by nature. If you’re growing a mealy variety, there’s not much you can do about it.

Some naturally mealy tomatoes are:

  • Amish Paste
  • Belgian Giant
  • Brandywine
  • Cherokee Purple
  • German Johnson

The Solution: Grow a different variety.

If you don’t want mealy tomatoes, choose a different variety. There are many delicious, non-mealy varieties to choose from. Some of our favorites include:

  • Mortgage Lifter
  • Carmello
  • Persimmon
  • Gold Medal

4 – Temperature

Temperature fluctuations can cause mealy tomatoes. If the temperature drops too low at night, or if there are sudden changes in temperature, it can soften the texture of your tomatoes.

The Solution: Keep a consistent temperature.

Tomatoes like warm weather and consistent temperatures. The ideal temperature for tomato plants is between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. At night, the temperature should not drop below 55 degrees.

Keep an eye on the forecast and take steps to protect your plants from extreme temperatures. To keep a consistent temperature, provide shade on hot days and use a frost blanket on cold nights.

If you want more control over how much sun your tomatoes get, you can try growing tomatoes in containers that you can move around based on the sunlight. You can also use a floating row cover or plastic tunnel. This will create a microclimate around your plants and protect them from extreme temperatures.

5 – Tomato storage

How you store your tomatoes can also affect their texture. If you store your tomatoes in the fridge, they can become mealy.

The Solution: Store your tomatoes at room temperature.

Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. Place them on a counter or shelves away from heat sources like appliances.

Don’t wash your tomatoes before storing them. If they’re too dirty, wipe them with a damp cloth.

6 – Picking too soon

If you pick your tomatoes too soon, they might turn mealy. Tomatoes firm up as they ripen, so it’s best to wait until they’re fully ripe.

The Solution: Wait to pick your tomatoes.

You’ll know your tomatoes are ready to be picked when they’ve turned a deep red or yellow color (based on the variety) and feel firm, but give a little when you squeeze. If it’s very firm, its not ready to pick. If it’s very soft, it’s overripe.

To harvest, gently twist the fruit to see if it comes off the vine easily.

Tomatoes will continue to ripen off the vine, so it’s best to pick them when you’re going to use them. If you need to store them for a few days, that’s OK! Just be sure to store them at room temperature out of direct sunlight.

7 – The first tomato harvest

If your first batch of tomatoes turns out mealy, don’t panic! Depending on the variety of tomato and the growing conditions, the first harvest is often not as good as subsequent ones.

The Solution: Be patient, maintain consistent moisture in the soil, and wait for the next harvest.

To improve the quality of your next batch, be sure to maintain consistent moisture in the soil. Water your plants regularly and mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture.

Check List to Prevent Mealy Tomatoes

If you want to prevent mealy tomatoes, here’s a quick checklist:

  • Plant the right variety
  • Watch the weather forecast during the growing season
  • Take precautions when extreme weather is forecasted
  • Create a consistent watering routine
  • Test your soil to verify optimal nutrients
  • Pick at the peak of ripeness
  • Store harvested tomatoes properly

What to do if you have a batch of mealy tomatoes

If you’ve followed all the tips above and you still end up with mealy tomatoes, don’t despair! There are still plenty of uses for mealy tomatoes.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Use mealy tomatoes in sauces or stews
  • Make roasted tomatoes
  • Fry mealy tomatoes
  • Add mealy tomatoes to soups or chili

Do you have any other tips for preventing mealy tomatoes? Send them to me!

Happy tomato season!

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