Is it Safe to Eat Volunteer Tomatoes? | 5 Things to Know First

It is safe to eat volunteer tomatoes. They can spring up spontaneously in your yard where you have previously grown tomatoes, where you have thrown old tomatoes on the ground, or where you have added homemade compost.

Tomato seeds can last in the soil and spring up when the weather conditions are right. Volunteer tomato plants can produce fantastic fruit that will be a cross between whatever the plant was pollinated with in the previous year.

I have loads of volunteer tomatoes growing this year that have sprung up near the cherry tomatoes I was growing last year. As the old cherry tomatoes were left on the ground the seeds stayed and were ready to emerge the next year.

Key Takeaways

  • Volunteer tomatoes are safe to eat and can be just as tasty as intentionally grown tomatoes.
  • It’s important to make sure the soil they’re growing in is healthy so they grow well.
  • Not all volunteer tomatoes will produce the same type of tomato as the parent plant.

I am letting them all grow to see what is produced.

5 Things to know about growing and eating volunteer tomatoes

Check out my easy list of things to know about volunteer tomatoes before you eat them.

1. Make sure they are tomatoes

The most important thing to do before you eat volunteer tomatoes is to make sure they are actually tomatoes. Some plants, including potatoes look very similar to tomatoes. Look out for yellow tomato flowers and leaves and fruit that look like tomatoes.

If you are not sure then don’t eat them.

My volunteer tomato popping up between pavers and rocks near my vegetable garden.

2. Volunteer tomatoes can be crossed with peppers

Volunteer tomatoes can actually end up being a cross between peppers and tomatoes. If you have grown peppers with your tomatoes in the previous year, they are close enough in species to cross pollinate. This could give you bitter tomatoes or one that grows a strange shape.

They are still safe to eat but may taste a bit strange.

3. Volunteer tomatoes can take longer to produce fruit

Most of the time you will get volunteer tomatoes later than the ones you grow. They spring up from the ground when the weather is perfect for germination and they will therefore produce fruit later.

We can start our regular crop of tomatoes earlier by planting seedlings raised in hot houses or by starting seeds ourselves. Tomatoes grown from volunteers will grow later as they germinate when the soil temperature is high enough.

This can be a good thing as you get some early tomatoes that you plant yourself and later tomatoes that will come from volunteers.

These volunteer tomatoes are not quite ready to produce fruit and it is later in summer. They popped up once the weather and soil warmed up.

4. Volunteer tomato plants may not produce fruit

Volunteer tomatoes may not always produce fruit. Depending on the type of tomato they were grown from and what they were pollinated by.

Many tomato varieties, particularly commercial ones will not produce fruit from their seed. There is no way to tell, you will just have to wait and see if the plant produces fruit.

5. Problems with volunteer tomatoes

Here are a few problems with volunteer tomatoes that you should know before letting them grow.

Firstly, not all volunteer tomatoes will produce fruit or the fruit may be different to the fruit on the original plant. They are a cross between whichever tomato they were pollinated by. If you have peppers growing nearby, the tomato may even be a cross between this plant and the pepper leading to a strange tasting tomato.

Volunteer tomatoes are popping up everywhere in my garden.

What fruit comes from the cross can vary. It might be sweeter, larger, smaller or with more seeds or less. Some tomatoes from supermarkets may not grow fruit as they have been bred differently. You can get a large plant, flowers but the fruit will not always set. This is the luck of the draw.

If you only have a small amount of space to grow your edible garden, it could be a waste to let volunteer tomatoes grow. You may take up valuable space with no tomatoes as a result.

Check out this video of a compost bin overflowing with volunteer tomatoes.

Should you keep volunteer tomato plants?

It is totally up to you as to whether you keep volunteer tomato plants. They can be an interesting surprise and can give you a new variety of tomatoes. They can also be a complete waste of space and take up good soil without producing fruit.

If you have the space to grow volunteer tomatoes and want to see what they produce then you should go ahead.

I even have volunteer tomatoes growing out the side of my worm farm.

For me, volunteer tomatoes have popped up in empty space near my vegetable garden beds. This space was not being used for anything, so I am happy to let them grow.

They have also popped up between pavers and rocks near my garden. They are not watered by me and are happily growing on their own. I am happy to leave them there to see what they produce.

I am sure they are cherry tomatoes because last year there were loads on the ground

If your volunteer tomatoes grow and don’t produce tomatoes, just pull them out, pop them into your compost if they are disease free and plant some legumes in the space. That will replace the nitrogen and get the soil ready for your winter crop.


If you are lucky enough to grow volunteer tomatoes that produce fruit then they are safe to eat. As long as they are actually tomatoes you can wash and eat them in salads or cook them into sauces. Their flavor and shape will vary from the original plant depending on what they were cross pollinated with. This will be a surprise, so good luck and I hope you get great tasting tomatoes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are self-seeded tomatoes safe to consume?

Yes, self-seeded tomatoes, also known as volunteer tomatoes, are safe to eat. These tomatoes grow from the seeds of previous tomato plants that have fallen to the ground and germinated on their own. As long as they are properly identified and cared for, these tomatoes are just as safe to consume as intentionally grown tomatoes.

What are the risks of consuming rogue tomato plants?

Make sure the plant is truly a tomato and is not a toxic variety of any other plant. It is important to properly identify the plant and take precautions when consuming volunteer tomatoes.

Can volunteer tomatoes be used for cooking?

Yes, volunteer tomatoes can be used for cooking in the same way that intentionally grown tomatoes can be used. They can be used in a variety of dishes, including salads, sauces, and soups. Just be sure to properly wash and prepare the tomatoes before using them in your recipes.

What are some precautions to take when consuming volunteer tomatoes?

To ensure the safety of volunteer tomatoes, it is important to properly wash and prepare them before consuming. This includes washing them thoroughly with water and removing any stems or leaves. Additionally, it is important to properly identify the plant and ensure that it is not contaminated with harmful bacteria or chemicals.

Are there any health benefits to eating volunteer tomatoes?

Yes, there are many health benefits to eating volunteer tomatoes. They are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene. Additionally, they are low in calories and high in fiber, making them a healthy addition to any diet.