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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

Like Turducken for Vegetarians

A couple months ago I was slicing up a store-bought tomato for a salad when I noticed the seeds inside looked darker than usual. Upon closer inspection, I realized that they had germinated and were growing inside the tomato! It was like turducken for vegetarians.

tomato sprouts

I decided not to eat them because everything besides the fruit of tomato plant is poisonous. Strange, but true. They’re in the same family (Solanum) as other notable poisonous plants such as Brugmansia and Datura (aka Nightshade and Angel’s Trumpet).

tomato plantBut like any good gardener, I couldn’t just toss them out. So I took a couple and put them in a small pot. Here they are, two months later, starting to look a lot like a tomato plant.

So what happened here? I’m no botanist, but I do know how to use a search engine, and the consensus is that there’s a gel sack around each seed in the tomato fruit that contains a germination inhibitor. This is the transparent stuff inside a tomato. The idea is, this inhibitor keeps the seeds from germinating until they’re on the ground where they can grow.

In this case, that inhibitor failed and the seed started to grow inside the tomato. This apparently can happen in fruit that’s kept cold for a long time, as this one may have been, but it’s a rarity. If my little plantlet makes it to fruiting stage (also a rarity for me), I’ll see if the same thing happens.

Has this ever happened to you?

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9 Responses

That’s pretty cool. I hope you get tasty toms from it!

Posted by The Sproutling on 8 May 2012 @ 11pm

I came across a strawberry whose seeds had started to sprout. It looked like it had a furry green coat of leaves! I wish I had been able to plant it just to see what happened.

Posted by Tonja on 9 May 2012 @ 10am

That’s wild! I’ve had seeds sprout inside winter squash when I left it on the counter too long, and once I bought some old shelling peas at the store and they had sprouted in their pods (I planted them and they grew and we ate their peas), but I’ve never seen a tomato like that before.

I sort of wonder how they can sprout without any air. Is that not necessary?

It reminds me of something my Permaculture teacher said about fruit flesh being built in compost for the seeds inside, and we’re just lucky it happens to taste good!

Posted by tea_austen on 9 May 2012 @ 10am

Yes! I’ve seen that before, and am always thrilled. I ate them anyway, even though I knew they were potentially poisonous.

Posted by kai on 9 May 2012 @ 6pm

Yes! Well, to my brother in law. He has found seeds sprouted inside of multiple apples in the last year. He planted two of them, and they are still growing!

Posted by Jennifer on 11 May 2012 @ 6pm

Twice actually, sort of. When my son was a toddler, I gave him an apple to eat in the tub…and he ate nearly the entire thing, core and all. All that was left was some seeds and the stem. Next day in the puddles, was a sprouted apple tree! We planted it and it in a pot and my black thumb managed to keep it alive for 3 years. It never got taller than 5 inches though.

This past year an errant popcorn kernel spouted in a cup of water. I let the corn seedling grow a few inches and then tossed it as I am not in the mood to garden this season. But the kids thought it was cool to have a “popcorn plant.” :D

Posted by Birdy on 15 May 2012 @ 7pm

not me…but look at this:

Posted by michel on 18 May 2012 @ 7am

I think I’ve seen that before, though I didn’t plant it, but this tomato lover did not know that everything on a tomato plant except the tomato was poisonous! Thanks for that. Course, when you say, “store bought tomato,” I’m not sure you WANT to produce those:-).

Posted by Kaye Kittrell on 18 May 2012 @ 1pm

I’ve never seen it in a tomato but it seems to be really common in papaya. Also, Liza at Good to grow had an interesting post about starting Chayote seeds… apparently they always grow from inside the fruit?

Posted by Tom on 19 May 2012 @ 5pm


Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.