What do tomatoes have anything in common with cats, really? Both are temperamental, occasionally adorable, good pets (for a time at least).
But there's one other thing, too: Catfacing! And no, in this instance, catfacing does not refer to applying thick stripes of eyeliner, pursing your lips, and smiling with your eyes. Here, we're talking about the name of a tomato disorder that you've probably encountered without even realizing it.
Catface is the term for those gray-brown, scabby-corky patches of no-man's-land, usually on a tomato's blossom end (that is, the pole farthest from the vine). You might not even notice a small patch of catface, but large areas could interfere with the edible fruit (and make the tomatoes unsellable).
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According to GardeningKnowHow.com, where catfacing is called out harshly as a "gross deformity," the disorder got its name because the cracking and dimpling—which can affect peaches, apples, and even grapes, too—"looks somewhat akin to a small cat’s face." Meow. (I'm not sure I see the resemblance! Do you?)
The causes of catface are not known with certainty, but there seem to be many contributing factors: According to the University of Minnesota garden extension service, it's generally agreed that any disturbance to the flowers or flower buds can lead to catface. OrganicLife attributes most catface to exposure to temperatures below 50° F during flowering and initial fruiting—the cool climate inhibits pollination and causes the blossom to stick to the developing fruit and, in turn, prevents certain parts of the tomato from properly developing. As the unaffected parts of the fruit continue to expand, scarring occurs. Growing pains, man.
Contact with hormone-type herbicides has also been implicated, as have excessive nitrogen and unstable moisture levels in the soil. Tomato plants with large fruits—heirlooms, beefsteaks—are more susceptible, but there are also tomato varietals (like Homesteads and Monte Carlos) that are catface-resistant.
Plus, catfaced tomatoes still perfectly good to eat. Cat power!
A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.