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Why Are My Tomatoes Bitter – With Tips To Produce Better Flavor!

When you bite into a tomato, you expect to be biting into a deliciously juicy, almost sweet fruit. Sometimes you get those handfuls of tomatoes that taste a bit bitter or sour and nothing like what you were expecting. Growing tomatoes is an art form and takes time and energy.  This might leave you wondering; why are my tomatoes bitter?

Lack of proper nutrients, soil conditions, and sunlight can cause bitter tasting tomatoes. Tomatoes require glucose, fructose, and ascorbic acids to reach their sweet, bold flavor.

In this article, we will dive into the world of bitter tomatoes and why they seem to happen. 

What Causes Bitter Tomatoes?

Tomatoes can be tricky. They need a perfect balance of acids and sugars to make them taste so delicious. A lack of glucose, fructose, citric, and ascorbic acids is what makes them taste bitter. Photosynthesis is what gives tomatoes their sweet flavor.

The fructose and the glucose condense into starches. Then the metabolism of the plant, or the phloem, is what transports the sugars through the plant into the tomato. This science is why tomatoes taste so good and the way they do. So if you lack any key components, your tomatoes won’t get what they need to be tasty. 

Top 3 Reasons Your Tomatoes Taste Bitter

  1. Soil Ph
  • Tomatoes like a ph of 6-6.8, which is ever so slightly acidic on the scale. To lower your soil ph, aluminum sulfate and sulfur can help with that. To raise the levels, limestone is frequently used. All of these things are found at garden stores. 
  1. Soil Nutrients
  • Soil nutrients is essential when it comes to growing yummy beautiful tomatoes. Tomatoes need a nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, calcium, and magnesium diet. They need all of these to have a healthy photosynthesis process. 
  1. Sunlight
  • Yes, Photosynthesis is driven by nutrients, but what better nutrients than the sun? Getting proper amounts of sunlight is what drives the photosynthesis process to its fullest. 
  1. Water
  • Yes, water is essential to growing anything. However, too much water could be why your tomatoes are tasting so bitter. Taking on so much water, especially later in the plant’s life, can drown out some of the good nutrients that are trying to get to the fruit. 

Are Tomatoes Supposed to Be Bitter?

Generally, tomatoes are not supposed to taste bitter. However, there are some varieties of tomato that, when they are fully ripened, have a more sour taste to them. Tomatoes with a higher acidic content or low sugars tend to be more bitter tasting than Beefsteak tomatoes or Globe tomatoes. Tomatoes like Stupice or Zebra varieties are tomatoes with a higher acidic rate than most. 

How Can I Prevent Bitter Tomatoes? Tips

Here are four tips to ensure you don’t have bitter tomatoes. 

  1. Water less
  • It may be odd to think, “water less?” but that is the key with tomatoes. Keep a strict schedule watering your tomato plants until they start to flower. You can cut your watering down by half and water only when the leaves begin to wilt. This ensures the good nutrients get pushed to the fruit and don’t get washed out.
  1. Proper sunlight
  • Tomatoes are known for being an excellent summertime vegetable because they love their sunlight. Tomatoes need 8 hours of sunlight a day to allow the photosynthesis journey to reach its potential. Just make sure it doesn’t get too hot! Tomatoes like a temperature from 65-85. Anything too hot can cause other problems with your fruit.
  1. Pruning
  • Pruning your plant can be very important. All that cluster of leaves and vines at the bottom of your tomatoes plants doesn’t need to be there! All it’s doing is stressing out your plant and dispersing nutrients to places it doesn’t need to go. 
  1. Fertilize 
  1. Remove Bugs
  • Always remember to give your plant a thorough check-up every day. New bugs or pests could be starting to attack your plant at any moment, and the sooner you stop them, the better. Take the bugs off by hand or spray your plant with natural bug repellent. My favorite repellent is a combination of dish soap, baking soda, and water. 
  1. Baking Soda
  • Baking soda is good for getting rid of bugs, but it can also bring down the acidic levels of your tomatoes! Baking soda gets absorbed into the soil and then reaches your plant’s roots, bringing down the levels that way. 

How Do I Grow a More Flavorful Tomato?

If you are trying to grow very flavorful tomatoes, first get a variety of tomatoes packed with flavor. Cherry tomatoes and smaller tomatoes tend to have a sweeter taste than bigger ones. Next, be sure to plant your tomatoes in well-fertilized, well-draining soil. Make sure they have plenty of sunlight and be watchful with your watering; how much you water makes a world of difference. 

What Are The Best Tasting Tomato Varieties?

Here are the top 10 best tasting tomato varieties, based on my own experience and opinion. 

TomatoDescription
RosadaThe highest on the Brix scale (sugar scale)
at a level 10.5. Rosada tomato is a small,
oval shaped cherry tomato.
BrandywineA larger, sweet tomato. One of the more popular
tomatoes to grow. It’s considered one of the best tasting
slicer tomatoes. Known for its perfect combination of sweet and
tart flavor.
SungoldA vibrant orange color when ripe, sungold tomatoes
are known for being very sweet with a delicious fruity
flavor.
RomaRoma tomatoes are slightly larger than your
typical cherry tomato, but not large enough to be slicing
tomatoes. They are considered “plum” tomatoes.
They are very sweet and juicy, and make great
tomato sauce.
Cherokee PurpleAnother larger, sweet tomato. They are known for being
naturally sweet with a rich flavor. Balancing out very nicely
between sweet and acidic.
AperoTesting out at 9.5 on the Brix scale, these are a very sweet
cherry tomato. Very similar to Rosadas’s just slightly less
sweet.
FloridityAlso testing out at 9.5, these are a very easy to grow “mini”
plum variety. Floridity tomatoes have a natural disease resistance.
SakuraA cherry tomato, landing 8.8 on the Brix scale. These tomatoes are
considered one of the top yielders when it comes to tomatoes.
Purple CherokeeA great tomato to grow in hot, dry climates. Its a very large tomato,
popular for slicing. Has a wonderful juicy sweet flavor.
Ace 55-VFA hybrid tomato. This tomato, also fairly large, is disease resistant
and is wonderful for sauces. It is very low on the acidic scale.
Table Showing Tomato Varieties Known for rich, non-bitter flavor

Can I Eat Bitter Tomatoes?

While bitter tomatoes may not taste great, they are still edible. Making them into a sauce is probably the easiest thing to do because it’s easier to offset the bitter taste that way. Baking soda or sugar can help do this and doesn’t affect the sauce’s flavor, besides fixing the bitterness. 

If you have bitter tomatoes, the next time you go out to your tomato garden, ask yourself if you have all the correct components to happy, healthy tomato plants. Fertilization, sunlight, and water are the top three things to remember. Tomatoes can be tricky, but you are golden once you have the right steps!