Sunday, August 5, 2012

FAQ: Evil tomatoes

What's that plant? and other frequently asked questions

Is that a black tomato?

Yes. The variety is called "Indigo Rose."

Why is it black? 

It gets its color from anthocyanins, the same antioxidants that make blueberries blue.

How do you know when it’s ripe?

If you look carefully, some of the tomatoes have green patches where they were shaded from the sun. When the tomato is ripe, those green patches will turn red, and the rest of the skin will change from the dark black to a slightly brighter purple color.

What does it taste like?

I don't know – this is the first time I've grown this variety.

Is it a real tomato? Is it GMO? Is it a hybrid?

It is a real tomato, and it's not GMO or hybrid. In fact, it's open-pollinated. (That means that if you let the plant pollinate itself and then plant the seeds, the plant that grows will be the same as the parent. You can't do that with GMO or hybrids – you have to buy new seeds every year.

Where does it come from?

Indigo Rose was developed by vegetable breeders at Oregon State University using traditional methods. Many kinds of tomatoes contain small amounts of natural anthocyanins in their leaves and stems. Some wild tomatoes from Chile and the Galapagos Islands had small amounts of the purple pigment in their fruit, too. The OSU breeders took tomatoes from these lines, cross-pollinated them, and chose the purplest of the offspring to be the parents of the next generation.

I bought these plants as seedlings from Berkeley Horticultural Nursery.