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Indigo Rose Black Tomatoes – the ripening process

Indigo Rose Black Tomato from Suttons

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

Interior of The Black Tomato Indigo Rose from Suttons
Glossy black skins contain bright red flesh
Image: Grafted Tomato Plant – The Black Tomato Indigo Rose from Suttons

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

The redder your black tomatoes, the riper they are
Image: Suttons

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

Closeup of individual tomato fruit of The Black Tomato Indigo Rose
Tomato ‘Indigo Rose’ can be harvested between July and October
Image: Grafted Tomato Plant – The Black Tomato Indigo Rose from Suttons

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. 

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4 thoughts on “Indigo Rose Black Tomatoes – the ripening process”

  1. Judith Beavis says:

    Grew Indigo Rose from grafted plants for the first time this year 2023. Fantastic flavour and easy to grow. at the end of the season we had loads that weren’t ripe so I brought them into the house to ripen. They were still good in December and they had just been laid in mushroom baskets near a window that gets a couple of hours winter sun. Gave some to next door and they now intend growing them in 2024 as do we. Yes they are slow to ripen but this just extends the fruiting season. Fantastic.

  2. Brian Butler says:

    Our first season growing Indigo Rose,the info and advice given has been most useful,Thank you..B&J,Butler…

  3. Ive tried growing indigo Rose for the First time this year. Ive noticed how slow they are to ripen. No matter, Ive got Ferline, Santonio Roma and Marmande growing too so I am cropping plenty for the table. But the verdict is how lovely these black tomatoes taste. They are brimming with anti oxidants too, so to get that benefit best not cooked and certainly not peeled and sauced. They are delicious, look lovely in a salad. So worth growing, very healthy plants and the seed can be kept and dried as they will grow true unlike the hybrids. Just wish I had grown some yellow tomatoes as well to complete exquisite platters of tomatoes, basil..purple and green, cucumber and chopped onion, torn feta, nasturtium flowers seeds and leaves, chives, oregano, dressing made with my own garlic. Freshly dug new potatoes doused in butter and herbs. A glass of gazpacho. I grow everything in council heavy duty garden waste bags as I have no borders, we garden on limestone. We do well and eat like Kings!!


    so reassuring to learn about the late ripening – and particularly how to tell that the tomato is ripe. This is obviously my first season trying them!

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