Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Question of Dormancy

Seed germinating inside a tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) fruit

All these years I have believed that tomato seeds cannot germinate without being washed and dried first.  I was surprised to see "seedlings" inside this tomato...obviously this one did not make it into my salsa.   This occurrence was observed in half of the tomatoes in the tray that I bought from Costco.  It happened only once so far...but it definitely caused me to wonder.

I am not sure what variety of tomato this is.  It is a common knowledge that the tomato seeds are coated with growth inhibitors which keep them dormant.  Abscisic acid (ABA) inhibits growth and controls dormancy in most seeds.  Could it be that this particular variety of tomato has not enough ABA content to effectively impose dormancy?  

We also know that both producer and vendor have to make sure that their produce maintains good shelf appearance and eating quality.  Could it also be that this tomato has been subjected to excessive post harvest treatment that the ABA has been broken down before the produce reached the market? 

Either way, something went wrong.  I would not recommend having tomato sprouts in my salad or in my sandwiches.  Neither would you.  Although some sprouts (such as broccoli, alfalfa, mungbean, etc.) are considered nutritious, tomato, being in the night-shade family (Solanum), should never be considered as such.  Unless it can be proven that the toxic substance in the leaves are processed only upon exposure to direct light.

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