When a Chinese university student bit into a tomato, he wasn't expecting anything more than a healthy, savory snack. But when he saw what was inside, he was completely stunned.
It looked like there was a strawberry stuck inside.
Wang Xiaowen, a 24-year-old from Shenyang, China, told the Daily Mail that the unusual fruit came from a supermarket near him. He bought two of them on March 23 and paid roughly 30 cents for the pair. The now-famous tomato appeared completely normal before he saw the core, he said.
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"Shall I carry on eating the tomato or not?" Wang wrote in a social media post along with a photo of the strange food, according to the Daily Mail. The post has since gone viral on Weibo, a Chinese social media website similar to Twitter.
After showing his classmates and keeping an eye on the Weibo post, Wang decided to finish eating his snack, although he saved the bizarre core and kept it for a few days before tossing it in the garbage.
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But what caused the tomato to have something inside of it that looked like a berry? According to Kari Houle, a Knox County University of Illinois Extension horticulture unit educator who had examined a similar case of "strawberry tomatoes" in 2010, the unusual innards might just belong to a rare tomato variety called a "stuffing tomato," so-called because it lacks some of the usual wet tomato flesh and is structured more like a bell pepper, making it easy to stuff and cook, notes The Associated Press.
"Most stuffing-type tomatoes look like they have a strawberry inside," Houle told the AP at the time. "Just a characteristic of certain cultivars."
Experts say that it is very difficult for strawberries and tomatoes to cross-pollinate, since both fruits pollinate in different ways, although it wouldn't be impossible for a tomato growing in a non ideal climate to mutate.
"Plants do weird things when the weather gets hot," Houle explained.
But Weibo users were not necessarily in agreement about the fruit's origins. Some said that Wang's strawberry-tomato is the result of genetic modification gone wrong, while others wondered whether the oddity came from a tumor or cross-pollination, according to the Daily Mail. China Central Television Station even weighed in on social media, suggesting that the fruit didn't have enough nutrients and was then blasted with hormones, causing the unsightly core.
Wang said that it tasted like a normal tomato.