Growing tomatoes can be fun and a great way to start your gardening journey. They are not too fussy about where they are grown and do not require special care.
However, there are external threats that you will need to take care of. Yes, we are talking about pesky creatures in your yard competing for a bite of the juicy fruit.
It’s common to wake up to tomatoes bitten by animals. Parts of the plant, including stems, leaves, and fruits, could be chewed off or missing.
What makes the situation a pain in the butt is deciding whether it’s safe to eat the bitten fruit. You surely don’t want to be infected by disease-carrying pathogens.
In this article, we will guide you on handling tomatoes that animals have bitten, the risks involved, and what factors you should consider before deciding to eat one. Let’s get moving.
Are Tomatoes Safe To Eat After Animals Have Bitten Them?
The answer to this question isn’t as straightforward as you may think.
There are potential problems you may want to be aware of before chowing down the fruit. You’ll need to look into what type of animal has been munching on it and the potential risks associated with the bite.
The biggest potential concern when eating an animal-bitten tomato is contamination by harmful bacteria such as Salmonella or E.coli, which can make you seriously ill.
1. Wild animals, such as raccoons or skunks, are known to carry pathogens that could be transferred if they bite your tomatoes.
2. Your pets are no exception. Cats and dogs can also carry potentially harmful bacteria.
3. Squirrel-bitten tomatoes are usually safe after removing the bitten part altogether.
4. Tomatoes with wormholes are not safe as they could still be hosting eggs and larvae.
5. Rat-bitten tomatoes are also unsafe as they can carry typhus and plague.
6. Rabbit-bitten tomatoes can be consumed after cutting off the chewed parts.
Due to potential microbial contamination, we recommend avoiding eating tomatoes that animals have bitten. However, if you are still adamant about eating them, follow the best practices below.
Factors That Determine the Safety of Bitten Tomatoes
Several factors determine the safety of a bitten tomato, as highlighted below.
1. The Ripeness Of The Tomato
A tomato that isn’t fully ripe and still green contains alkaloids such as tomatine, solanine, and atropine. These substances are mildly poisonous.
The added risk of bacterial infections from animal bites makes bitten green tomatoes hazardous to your health.
2. How Are They Stored After Being Bitten?
As a precaution, you should always refrigerate bitten tomatoes and consume them as soon as possible.
Keeping bitten tomatoes at room temperature for extended periods can multiply the bacteria quickly, making them unsafe to eat.
3. Your Immunity And Physical Health
Your immunity and fitness play a significant role in determining your ability to fight bacterial infections.
If you catch a cold now and then, bitten tomatoes are certainly not for you.
4. The Severity Of The Animal Bite
If the bite on your tomato appears deep and wide, it’s likely bacteria or other airborne contaminants have had access to the internal parts of the fruit. In this case, you are better off discarding it rather than risking your health.
On the flip side, if the bite is shallow and small, it may be safe to consume the tomato if you take proper precautions. This involves chopping off the bitten part and washing what remains thoroughly with plenty of clean water before eating.
Moreover, inspect the bitten area closely for any signs of discoloration or mold, which indicates rotting or bacterial growth. If either of these is present, it would be best to dispose of the tomato.
How To Safely Handle and Prepare Bitten Tomatoes?
- Start by washing the tomato in cool water using a gentle scrub brush before cutting it. This can help remove any bacteria that may be present on the fruit’s surface.
- Consider using a food-grade sanitizer on the surface of your tomatoes before preparing them as an extra safety precaution.
- Next, cut away any damaged areas around where the bite occurred and discard them. You should also check for bruises or blemishes on the remaining part.
- Always store your tomatoes in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. An ideal place is a refrigerator.
- However, this could make them lose flavor and texture faster than storing them at room temperature.
- Thoroughly cook the bitten tomatoes to destroy potential bacteria before consumption.
- To be safe, consume bitten tomatoes within 24 hours after you prepare them.
We hope we have cleared up any doubts you had regarding handling and preparing tomatoes bitten by animals.
Strictly speaking, you can eat them after cleaning them thoroughly. However, if you are unsure of what animal is responsible for the bite or are skeptical about your health, it’s wise to throw them in the bin.
Job Kiniale is a certified crop scientist and gardening enthusiast with a passion to help beginning gardeners navigate their newfound hobby. Let’s talk about plants, backyard ideas, and general gardening advice. Outside work, Job loves spending time with family.