The Simple Pantry Staple That Will Sweeten Your Homegrown Tomatoes

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In many summer vegetable gardens, tomatoes are the star of the show. Standing tall with bright red or yellow fruit, these staked plants are typically easy to care for, provided you water and fertilize them regularly. Once harvested, this fruit can be the perfect addition to a refreshing salad, a delicious homemade salsa, or your favorite pasta recipe.

However, while many agree that tomatoes taste amazing, you may find they're not sweet enough for your liking. While yellow and orange varieties are typically more sugary, red ones can be pretty tart. If you want to try altering the flavor of your produce, some believe that baking soda can actually make tomatoes taste sweeter. To try out this hack, you'll need to lightly powder around the base of the stem with less than ¼ cup of the pantry staple. You can do this as soon as you put the plant in the ground and also while it's still growing.

How baking soda alters flavor

Many believe that a sprinkle of baking soda can alter the taste of tomatoes because this powdery substance is alkaline, while tomato plants are acidic. Therefore, placing some around your plant should alter the soil's pH level and make the fruit taste less acidic. This hack is appealing because it's easy and inexpensive to execute. However, some have found that it doesn't make a noticeable difference in the flavor; to see if it actually works for yourself, grow two plants, one with the baking soda and one without, then have a taste test. 

Baking soda can also be used to address other tomato problems, including controlling bacterial or fungal infections and killing off pests. If you want to use this product for any of these uses, mix 1 teaspoon of the substance with ½ teaspoon of dish soap and 1 gallon of water, then spray onto the leaves and stem.

A word of warning

While many believe baking soda can sweeten tomatoes, others are a bit skeptical about this solution. One reason for this skepticism is that no studies have actually proven this to be the case. Further, baking soda is alkaline, with a pH level of 8, while tomato plants are acidic and need their soil to be below a pH level of 7. Therefore, using too much of this common ingredient could kill your tomato plant or even the other species planted around it. Additionally, baking soda also contains sodium, something that's typically already balanced in soil, and adding more could cause an imbalance that negatively affects your garden.  

As such, you must be careful about the amount you place in the soil. Generally, it's best to be light-handed with this product and never place large mounds of it around your plants. If you want to clearly see your garden's pH level, use a pH meter, which you can purchase on Amazon for around $8.