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The best way to choose a black tomato is to consider taste, aesthetic appeal, and disease resistance. Many gardeners choose a black tomato because they are first drawn to its dark, exotic color and distinctive, smoky flavor. Black tomato varieties have been developed that are suitable for many types of climates and growing conditions, especially cooler climates with shorter summer growing seasons. These unusual heirloom tomatoes are available in more than 50 types that vary in size, taste, and color.
Black tomatoes are not truly black, but dark purple when ripe, with maroon, mahogany, or blue tints depending on the variety. Some even have stripes and shades of green in their skins when ripe. These tomatoes stand out from most heirlooms, which tend to be red, yellow, or orange. While some black tomato varieties have a deep, dark color, especially when exposed to heat, others are mostly red, with only a hint of purplish tint. These may be suitable for gardeners who want a tomato that more closely resembles the traditional red varieties.
The black tomato originated in the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine. Many varieties are quite hardy and able to tolerate cooler summers due to their chilly heritage, making them a wise choice for northern gardeners who might not otherwise have success growing tomatoes. It takes only 75 days for these tomatoes to mature. One factor of black tomatoes’ appeal is climactic flexibility, as they can also endure long, hot summers. The amount of heat and sun they receive during the growing season may affect depth of color.
Although the black tomato may appear exotic, it is easy to grow and can be a good choice for even the novice gardener. Many black varieties are known for their large size and, consequently, a tendency to split. Yet there are some newer varieties that have been specially developed to minimize the chances of splitting and to maximize resistance to common tomato diseases and pests.
As the black tomato is an heirloom variety, it is not available through local garden centers and may be purchased through various online seed sources that have detailed descriptions of each variety and specifics on their hardiness and disease resistance. Companies are helpful in describing the tomato’s taste, which is frequently smoky and earthy and may be either salty or sweet.
Some of the most popular varieties with growers are black krim, a savory Russian beefsteak variety that is one of the oldest varieties, and the black from Tula, a very large and aesthetically appealing tomato that will tolerate heat. Although larger black varieties tend to crack, they have a reputation as some of the best-tasting tomatoes available, making any cracks worth it. Black cherries can be eaten straight from the vine, yet have the distinctive black flavor. Black plum varieties tend to be more difficult to obtain, but have a high yield and a unique flavor.