Tomato Secrets That Nobody Ever Told You (13 Facts Exposed!)

Tomatoes are lots of fun to grow – the vines are vigorous and the fruit is bright and cheerful. But beneath that shiny exterior, tomatoes are hiding some dark secrets – ones they don’t want you to know about…

Now that I think about it, there are probably lots of things you didn’t know about tomatoes. Some of these facts are weird, wild, and totally unexpected.

In this article, you’ll learn 13 facts about tomatoes that nobody ever told you.

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Tomato Secrets (13 Surprising Facts About Tomatoes)

Tomatoes are full of surprises – whether it’s the fruit, the seeds, the flowers, or the vines.

tomato plant with fruit
There is more to tomatoes than meets the eye!

Here are 13 things about tomatoes that may come as a shock to you:

  • Tomatoes Originated In South America
  • Tomatoes Can Get Too Hot
  • Tomato Plants Don’t Need Sunblock
  • Tomatoes Are Self-Pollinating
  • Tomatoes Can Be As Small As 1 gram (1/4 inch)
  • The Largest Ever Tomato Weighed Over 10 Pounds
  • The Tallest Tomato Plant Was 65 Feet Tall
  • You Can Bury Tomato Plants Deeper Than You Think
  • Broken Tomato Stems Can Survive
  • You Can Graft Two Tomato Plants Into One
  • Tomato Seeds Can Sprout Inside The Fruit
  • There Are Purple Tomatoes – And Lots Of Them
  • A Tomato Is A Berry

Let’s take a closer look at each of these surprising facts to learn more.

1. Tomatoes Originated In South America

When you hear the word “tomatoes”, you might get hungry and start to think about Italian tomato-based foods, like pizza or pasta sauce. But tomatoes didn’t get their start on the Italian Peninsula!

tomato on vine
Tomatoes originated in South America, possibly in the Andes Mountains.

Tomato plants are originally from tropical parts of South America, including:

  • Chile
  • Ecuador
  • Peru
  • Galapagos Islands

The first tiny wild tomatoes were supposedly found in Ecuador 80,000 years ago. After a while, the Aztecs and Mayans began to grow them.

From there, Spanish explorers brought tomatoes back to Europe. They soon spread to the rest of the world, (including Italy, of course!)

In their native habitat, tomatoes can grow as perennials, surviving more than a year. However, in areas with cold winters, they will succumb to frost when cooler weather arrives.

Tomatoes are a member of the Nightshade plant family (Solanaceae), which also includes:

  • Eggplant
  • Goji Berries
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Petunia
  • Tobacco
  • Tomatillos
long red bell peppers
Tomatoes are related to peppers – both are members of the Nightshade plant family.

You can learn more about the origin of tomatoes here.

2. Tomatoes Can Get Too Hot

As we just learned, tomatoes are tropical in origin. Still, they have their limits when it comes to heat!

Above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius), tomato fruit does not set from flowers, and existing fruit does not ripen properly.

tomato flower
If tomato plants get too hot, fruit will fail to set from the flowers.

Above 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius), a tomato plant will stop growing (and tomato seeds will not germinate).

At the other extreme, temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius) start to cause problems for tomato plants. A frost or freeze (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius) will kill tomato plants.

You can learn more about how temperature affects tomato plants here.

3. Tomato Plants Don’t Need Sunblock

Although tomato plants can only handle so much heat, they do have a way of dealing with intense sunlight. And no – they don’t use sunblock!

tomato flower
Tomato plants have little hair-like structures called trichomes. They do more for the plant than you would think!

You know those little hairs that tomato plants have on them? Well, those hairs are called trichomes, and they protect the plant in lots of ways.

Trichomes come in handy for several different purposes. For example, some trichomes can become roots if buried (more on this later!). Trichomes can also protect tomato plants from various threats, such as:

  • Cold
  • Drought
  • Pests (Insects & Animals)
  • UV light
Trichomes can help tomato plants to ward off pests.

What’s cool is that the length and thickness of trichomes changes, depending on the variety of the tomato and its environment. The number and thickness of trichomes can affect plant temperature (via heat loss or conservation), energy production (via light penetration and photosynthesis), and water levels (via transpiration, or loss of water through leaves).

Trichomes have 7 different classes, 4 of which are glandular. These glandular trichomes can produce metabolites, some of which act as repellents to pests. They also give tomato plants their distinctive smell.

You can learn more about tomato trichomes here.

4. Tomatoes Are Self-Pollinating

When we think of plant pollination, we usually think of a bee moving pollen from one flower to another. Tomatoes don’t need to do that, though – each flower can pollinate itself!

This is because tomato plants are self-pollinating. In other words, one tomato plant can pollinate flowers and set fruit all by itself.

tomato flowers
Tomato plants are self-pollinating – each flower has male and female parts!

A tomato plant does not need any other nearby plants to produce fruit. This is because a tomato flower is perfect.

This is not a subjective opinion of mine (although they are beautiful!) It just means that a tomato flower contains both male part (stamens) and female part (pistil).

Just remember: self-pollination does not mean guaranteed pollination! In a given year, some of the flowers on a tomato plant can fail to pollinate or produce fruit for many different reasons (temperature, humidity, etc.)

This is because there are still certain conditions that are needed for self-pollination to occur. For example, a tomato flower still needs some sort of stimulus to release pollen from the male part to the female part.

The stimulus could be:

  • a bee’s buzzing wings
  • an animal brushing the flower as it walks by the plant
  • wind blowing the plant and moving the flower
Tomato plants still need bees to fly around and stimulate pollination with their buzzing.

If you lack pollinators in your garden, you can attract more of them with a pollinator garden – and you can learn more about how to plant one here!

5. Tomatoes Can Be Tiny: As Small As 1 Gram (1/5 inch)

You may have heard of cherry tomatoes, which are some of the smallest (and delicious) types of tomatoes. Some of the absolute smallest tomatoes can be downright miniscule!

cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes can be absolutely tiny, weighing only a few grams.

The Tomberry is a tomato that is the size of a blueberry. It is a hybrid: a cross between a wild tomato and a cherry tomato. It is tart and not as sweet as you would expect.

This relative of the cherry tomato was developed in the Netherlands. It measures 0.5 to 1 centimeter (1/5 to 2/5 inch) and weighs just 1 to 2 grams.

6. The Largest Ever Tomato Weighed Over 10 Pounds

There are plenty of tomato varieties whose fruit can weigh 1 pound (16 ounces) or more. Still, if you want to break a world record, you might consider growing Domingo tomatoes.

Costoluto Genovese Tomato
Some of the biggest tomatoes can weigh a pound or more – the world record is over 10 pounds!

This variety helped to break the World Record in 2020. The record-setting tomato weighed in at an astonishing 10.795 pounds, having a circumference of 33 inches (2.75 feet across!)

Fun fact: you would need over 3,000 Tomberries to achieve the same weight as the World-Record holding Domingo tomato!

7. The Tallest Tomato Plant Was 65 Feet Tall

You thought indeterminate tomato varieties got tall at 6, 7, or 8 feet? That’s nothing! The tallest tomato plant (so far!) was a towering 65 feet.

Pinterest Do Tomato Plants Bear Fruit More Than Once
Indeterminate tomato varieties tend to be taller, but few ever reach a height of 65 feet!

A company in the UK (Nutriculture Limited in Lancashire) used hydroponic methods (soilless growing with nutrient-rich water) to produce a tomato plant that reached a height of 65 feet in 1999. That’s a lot of support to keep the plant climbing!

8. You Can Bury Tomato Plants Deeper Than You Think

Most plants don’t like being buried too deep. After all, there is the danger of stem rot if they are stuck in the damp soil.

Apparently, tomatoes didn’t get the message. They don’t care at all about being buried deep! So, you can plug them in a little deeper when you transplant them outdoors in the spring.

tomato seedling
Tomato plants don’t mind being buried deep, so remember that when you go to transplant them outdoors in spring.

Thanks to its trichomes (hairy exterior structures), a tomato plant can grow more roots on the stem (adventitious roots) when buried. The extra roots make the plant hardier, less likely to fall over, and more resistant to drought or cold.

Burying at a depth of 2/3 of the height below ground is suggested for tomato plants. Cut off any branches or leaves below the 2/3 mark before planting.

You don’t have to go that far, though. Tomatoes don’t need to be buried that deep – but they are cool with it if you decide to go for it.

9. Broken Tomato Stems Can Survive

Sometimes, a tall tomato plant will snap its stem in a strong wind (especially if you neglected to tie it up to its support stake!)

Fortunately, the plant can still survive. If you reattach the bent or severed part, tie it securely (twine or tape), and give it time, the plant might be able to heal the damage.

tomato branch cut off
If you prune off a tomato branch (or it falls off), you might still be able to bury some of the stem in the soil to start a new plant.

If a branch falls off, you might still be able to plant it and create a new tomato plant (via cloning or vegetative propagation). Remember: you can bury tomato plants (or branches) deep and they will still be able to root!

10. You Can Graft Two Tomato Plants Into One

Remember the chimera in Greek mythology? This creature had parts from different animals: a lion with a goat’s head coming out of its back (and possibly a tail with a snake’s head at the end).

A chimera has the cells of two different living creatures in one.

A chimera is basically one living thing that has cells from two distinct individuals. Well, plants can have chimeras, too.

By grafting two plants together, you can create a chimera with living tissue from two different plants. The most basic graft has a rootstock (base, roots and lower stem) from one plant variety and a scion (upper stem, branches, leaves, flowers, fruit) from another plant variety.

grafted tomato plant
The graft union shows you where two tomato plants were grafted into one.
Image courtesy of:
Carrivard via:
Wikimedia Commons https://commons.

Honestly, that sounds like something Dr. Frankenstein would do if he were a botanist. Still, grafting is a helpful “shortcut” to get the best traits of two different plants – without having to painstakingly cross them.

For example, when grafting tomatoes, you could use a rootstock that is resistant to root-knot nematodes and a scion with the type of fruit that you want.

You can learn more about grafting tomato plants here.

11. Tomato Seeds Can Sprout Inside The Fruit

That’s right – tomato seeds can sprout inside the fruit! It’s called vivipary, and it’s kind of creepy, but it’s totally natural (and pretty rare).

Normally, the hormone abscisic acid prevents tomato seeds from sprouting inside the fruit. This hormone keeps the seeds dormant so they don’t waste their energy by sprouting too early.

tomato seeds sprouting inside tomato
Tomato seeds sprouting inside tomato (vivipary). Image Courtesy of user:
mykhal via:
Wikimedia Commons https://commons.

A lack of abscisic acid means that the seeds can sprout inside the fruit. This is more common if the fruit is exposed to prolonged chilly air (a few days below 55 degrees Fahrenheit or 13 degrees Celsius) and then left in a warm place again.

Overripe tomatoes, potassium deficiency, and too much nitrogen all make vivipary more likely to occur. You can learn more about vivipary (and how to prevent it) here.

12. There Are Purple Tomatoes – And Lots Of Them

Usually, we think of tomatoes with a beautiful deep red hue. It’s less common to see purple tomatoes – but they are out there! The compounds known as anthocyanins are what make tomatoes purple (they also give blueberries their color).

purple tomato
There are dozens of purple tomato varieties, meaning you have no shortage to choose from!

Purple tomatoes are packed with antioxidants and full of flavor There’s Black Beauty, Cherokee Purple, Indigo Ruby, Sunshine Blue, and many others (there are dozens of purple tomato varieties available!).

You can get the scoop on 12 purple tomato varieties here.

13. A Tomato Is A Berry

I know it sounds crazy – especially with the debate over whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. But it’s true – a tomato is botanically classified as a berry.

tiny tomato plants picture
A tomato is botanically classified as a berry.

It’s also technically considered a fruit, although I’ve never seen a tomato in a fruit salad!


Now you know some surprising secrets about tomato plants. Keep digging, because I’m sure there are more out there!

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information. (If not, please feel free to pelt me with rotten tomatoes!)

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Jon M

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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