Jessica Davidson, of Balclutha Primary School, asks :-

How did this happen to my tomato?

Ross Bicknell, a tomato specialist with The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research, responded.

Hey, cool tomato Jessica. Now I’m assuming here that you didn’t super glue two tomatoes together.

By the look of the photo it looks as if you have two fruit there but the distance between them is very short. I’m sure you know that this is not normal behavour for tomatoes as they space their flowers and fruit apart on stalks called pedicels.

When the flower stem is growing the flowers and pedicels are developing together. Normally it all goes according to plan but sometimes things go wrong. Occasionally you get a normal pedicel but incorrect flower development. This is called a ‘blind’ pedicel. It’s basically a flower stalk with no flower on it. As they usually fall off before the fruit form they don’t really matter much. But, if you get a flower forming without a pedicel (as you have) then the fruit can form. Without a stalk to push it away from its neighbour however, that fruit will end up just like your one, crowded up against the next one.

I’d have to say that I haven’t seen such a good example of this before though. Normally one of the fruits is small and poorly formed.

So why would you get problems with flower and pedicel growth? Well nature is full of these kinds of things. The development of any living thing is an intricate and miraculous process. Tiny differences between the events happening in developing flowers and stems as they grow can result in these kinds of changes.

Then you have other issues like insects feeding on developing tissues, damaging them and slowing them down. As one of my old teachers told me once; the amazing thing is not that deformities occur but that development works so well and so often without problems. Or for that matter, that such an intricate thing works at all.