Question: I have a peach tree. The seeds of some of my peaches are split in two. What causes this? Some of the pits have a little black mold in the center. Are the peaches safe to eat?

Answer: No one is quite sure what causes the condition known as “peach pit split.” It is believed to be caused by events or cultural practices that promote rapid growth. It is more common on early peach varieties than late ones. Early ripening varieties are most susceptible because of the short time between pit hardening and fruit swelling. A late frost that causes a partial crop loss and heavy rains during the critical growth period can also contribute to pit splitting and shattering where the pit is broken in several pieces. The mold did not cause the splitting but occurred afterward.

While there is nothing you can do now, you can take some measures to help prevent it from happening again: Avoid excessive thinning. It’s best to wait until after the pits have hardened to thin the clusters. Don’t take steps to increase the size of the fruit as harvest time approaches. Avoid excessive watering and fertilizing. Consistent soil moisture is best. Irregular periods of drought followed by lots of rain encourage pit split.

The peaches are safe to eat. Remove or cut away any mold on any fruit before you eat it and be careful to remove any of the broken pieces of the pit so you don’t crack a tooth.

Q: I heard a fig can have a regular crop and a breba crop. What is a breba crop?

A: Figs can bear two crops a year. The early crop is called the breba crop. It is borne on the old wood and ripens in early summer. The regular or main crop is borne on new wood and ripens later in the summer.

Q: Why are tomato plants called vines? What exactly is a “vine-ripened” tomato?

A: Tomato plants do not twine as morning-glories or pole beans do. They do not cling with rootlets the way Boston or English ivy do. They do not attach themselves with tendrils the way grape or cucumber vines do. However, because of the loose, sprawling habit that requires some varieties to need staking or trellising, tomato plants are sometimes called vines.

A true vine-ripened tomato is a tomato that is allowed to grow and mature on the vine and is not picked until it is actually ripe. A tomato that has been allowed to ripen on the vine is sweeter and juicier than one that is picked while it is still green and ripened off the vine. Some tomatoes you see at the supermarket are picked green or nearly green and gassed with ethylene to ripen them. One note of caution: There are some sellers who will call a tomato “vine-ripened” if it is picked when it is showing any redness or color other than green. A true vine-ripened tomato is less suitable for shipping because of its susceptibility to bruising and shorter shelf-life.

You are most likely to get true vine-ripened tomatoes by growing them yourself or buying directly from a farm or farmers market. After you eat a juicy, vine-ripened Georgia grown tomato from your own garden or from a local farmer, you don’t want to go back to those Styrofoam things they call tomatoes that were picked ages ago and shipped from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

On the net:

Georgia Department of Agriculture: www.agr.georgia.gov

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