Can you eat tomatoes with tomato rot?

Tomato rot, also known as blossom end rot, is a common disease that affects tomatoes. It causes brown or black leathery spots to form on the bottom of the tomato fruit near the stem. These spots can cover a large portion of the tomato and make it visually unappealing and affect its taste. Many gardeners wonder if tomatoes affected by blossom end rot are safe to eat or if they should be discarded. This article will examine the causes of tomato rot, whether it’s safe to eat tomatoes with rot, and steps you can take to use or prevent eating tomatoes with this disease.

What Causes Tomato Rot?

Tomato rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in the plant. Calcium is needed by tomatoes for the proper growth and strength of the cell walls and fruit. Without adequate calcium, the cells weaken and die, resulting in the leathery brown spots on the blossom end of the fruit.

This calcium deficiency can be caused by:

  • Irregular watering – too much or too little water fluctuations prevent proper calcium uptake
  • Hot temperatures – increased transpiration due to heat requires more calcium than may be available
  • Improper soil pH – calcium is best absorbed by tomatoes when soil pH is 6.0-6.8
  • Heavy fruit loads – developing many tomatoes on the vine results in competition for available calcium
  • Damaged roots – any root damage inhibits proper nutrient and water uptake

Ensuring the soil has sufficient calcium content, maintaining proper soil pH, consistent soil moisture, and not over-crowding plants can help prevent blossom end rot.

Is it Safe to Eat Tomatoes with Rot?

The leathery brown spots on the bottom of tomatoes affected by blossom end rot are visually unappealing and affect the flavor and texture of the fruit, but the tomatoes are still safe to eat.

The rot is not caused by a bacteria or pathogen – it is simply dead plant tissue resulting from the calcium deficiency. The rot does not affect the entire tomato or travel through the fruit, so you can cut away the damaged portions of the tomato and consume the remainder.

It is best to cut off the blossom end about 1/2 to 1 inch below the rotted area. The flesh here may still have some odd texture and flavor. Cutting this section away will leave you with a firm, ripe tomato free of rot that is perfectly safe and healthy to eat.

Should You Eat Tomatoes with Rot?

While tomatoes with blossom end rot are technically safe to eat, the flavor and texture may be negatively affected depending on the severity of the rot. Minor cases may result in an odd texture but decent taste when the rot is removed, while tomatoes severely affected by blossom end rot are often best discarded even if you cut away the damaged sections.

Here are some guidelines on when it’s best to eat or discard tomatoes with rot:

Eat Tomatoes With Minor Rot

If the blossom end rot only covers a small portion of the tomato, about 25% or less of the surface area, you can typically cut away the damaged section and enjoy the rest of the tomato. The flavor should not be significantly impacted. Cut off at least 1/2 inch below the rot to remove any potentially off-tasting tissue near the rotted areas.

Use Tomatoes with Moderate Rot for Cooking

If the rot covers around 25-50% of the tomato, you may wish to cook the tomatoes rather than eating them raw. Cooking helps blend the flavors and makes any weird textural issues less noticeable. You can slice out the rotted sections and use the good portions for sauces, stews, casseroles, or roasting. The additional moisture released during cooking will further help mask any off-flavors.

Discard Tomatoes with Severe Rot

Tomatoes with over 50% surface area affected by blossom end rot or where the rot has spread into a large portion of the flesh should be discarded. At this point, the odd flavor and mushy texture will likely be too pronounced for enjoyable eating. Compost these tomatoes rather than eating them.

Preventing Blossom End Rot

While you can eat tomatoes with minor to moderate blossom end rot, it’s best to prevent the disease from developing in the first place. Here are some tips for preventing blossom end rot in your tomato plants:

  • Test soil and adjust pH to 6.0-6.8 range
  • Add calcium amendments like lime or gypsum if soil is deficient
  • Use mulch to maintain even soil moisture
  • Avoid damaging roots through cultivation or staking
  • Water regularly and consistently
  • Reduce transpiration stress by providing shade cloth in very hot climates
  • Avoid over-crowding plants and excessive pruning
  • Choose blossom end rot resistant tomato varieties

Catching blossom end rot early and adjusting your watering practices can also help limit damage to fruit already developing on the vines.

Using Tomatoes with Rot

If you choose to use tomatoes affected by blossom end rot in cooking, here are some great ways to incorporate them into meals:

Tomato Sauce or Puree

Chop the tomatoes up and simmer into a tasty sauce or puree. The additional ingredients and cooking help mask any off-flavors. Use tomato sauce for pasta, pizza, soup, chili, or freezing for later use.

Tomato Soup

Tomatoes with rot work very well in homemade tomato soup. Cook chopped tomatoes with broth, cream or milk, onions, garlic, and spices into a delightful soup.

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasting helps concentrate and enhance tomato flavor. Toss cut up tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and herbs. Roast at 400°F until caramelized. Use in bruschetta or as a side dish.

Stewed Tomatoes

Simmer chopped tomatoes with olive oil, onions, peppers, herbs and spices for a simple stewed tomato side. The long cooking time helps blend flavors. Serve stewed tomatoes over rice or pasta.

Tomato Jam

Remove any rot then cook down fresh tomatoes with sugar and lemon into a tasty sweet and tangy jam. The high sugar content masks acidity and off-flavors from rot. Enjoy tomato jam on toast, sandwiches, or cheeses.

As you can see, tomatoes with some blossom end rot can still be used to make tasty recipes with the proper preparation. A little chopping and cooking goes a long way!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you eat tomatoes that have started to rot?

It’s best not to eat tomatoes that are overly rotten, mushy, or moldy as they can harbor harmful bacteria at that stage. However, tomatoes with minor blossom end rot are still safe to eat once the damaged sections are removed.

What happens if you eat bad tomatoes?

Fully rotten tomatoes that are covered in mold or very mushy can make you sick if eaten. Stick to discarding tomatoes that are overly rotted or moldy. Tomatoes with blossom end rot are ok to consume in moderation after cutting away the damaged areas.

Can you cut the rotten part off a tomato and eat the rest?

Yes, you can cut away areas affected by blossom end rot and eat the remainder of the tomato. Make sure to cut off at least 1/2 inch below the rotted spots to remove any potentially off-tasting flesh near the damaged areas.

Should you refrigerate tomatoes with blossom end rot?

You can refrigerate tomatoes with minor blossom end rot to slow further deterioration. Storing the tomatoes stem-side down can help prevent the rot from spreading while refrigerated. Use refrigerated rotting tomatoes within a few days.

What does tomato blossom end rot taste like?

The rotten areas taste very acidic and unpleasant. However, the flesh just around the rot may have some odd, mildly off-flavors. Cooking helps counteract this. The rest of the tomato should taste normal if the rot is moderate. Severely rotted tomatoes often don’t taste very good even after removing the rotten sections.


Tomato rot, or blossom end rot, is an unattractive but harmless disease caused by calcium deficiency. Rotten sections should be cut away and discarded. Tomatoes with minor rot are still safe to eat fresh, while those with moderate rot can be used in cooking. Severely rotted tomatoes are best composted. Preventing blossom end rot through proper soil care and watering is ideal, but tomatoes with some rot can still be enjoyed with careful preparation and use.

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