If you’re thinking about which tomatoes to grow this season, the black tomato ’Indigo Rose’ is definitely worth considering. Full of health-boosting antioxidants, it also looks spectacular. But when a tomato is black, how do you tell when it’s ripe to pick? Here’s everything you need to know about the ‘Indigo Rose’, including how to ripen it to perfection.
What is a black tomato?
Here at Suttons we go to the ends of the earth to find rare and unusual plants for our customers, and our black tomatoes are no exception. Naturally crossbred from tomatoes found in Peru and the Galapagos Islands, they have a sweet taste with delicate overtones of plum. Whether you prefer to sow tomato ‘Indigo Rose’ seeds or buy grafted tomato plants, these heavy-cropping fruits are black on the outside and vibrant red inside.
Health benefits of black tomatoes
All tomatoes contain lycopene, a type of carotenoid found in other red fruits (apart from strawberries and cherries). Lycopene is an antioxidant; a type of molecule which helps to protect your body’s cells from damage. Black tomatoes contain high levels of lycopene, but their black skins are also a source of anthocyanins, an antioxidant that’s famously found in the skins of blueberries. Black tomatoes offer twice the healthy bang for your buck.
How to ripen black tomatoes
Thanks to their high antioxidant content, black tomatoes are slower to ripen than your usual red varieties. In fact, it can take as long as 93 days from planting before ‘Indigo Rose’ reaches peak maturity, something you should plan for when planting this lovely variety. It’s certainly worth the wait though, because they look amazing on the plate.
Before they’re ready to pick, black tomatoes go through a couple of ripening stages. When they first appear on the vine, black tomatoes are the usual green, but soon turn black in the sunshine. At this point, they’re as hard as bullets and definitely not ripe enough to pick. You can gauge ripening by feel, and of course by that lovely tomato fragrance ripe fruit gives off, but you can also tell how ripe a black tomato is by how red it turns.
As they ripen, black tomatoes begin to turn red, a process which begins at the bottom of the fruit and spreads towards the calyx at the top. The skin will always be partially black but basically the redder it is, the riper the fruit, and the sweeter the flesh. Simply pick your tomatoes when they reach your preferred state of maturity.
How to use black tomatoes
A little bigger than cherry tomatoes, black ‘Indigo Rose’ is resistant to early blight and produces high yields, meaning you’ll have lots of incredible fruit to use up. Holding up well in cooked and uncooked dishes, they’re incredibly versatile with the added bonus of adding dramatic flair to summer salads and pasta dishes.
If you don’t have time to sow seeds and would like more information on growing tomato plants, take a look at our guide to growing grafted tomatoes which provides lots of useful information. Alternatively, browse our full range of tomato seeds for inspiration.