black tomatoes

helenh(z6 SW MO)January 2, 2013

What black tomatoes have you tried and how do they compare? Do you like Indian Stripe better than Cherokee Purple? How does Chocolate Stripes compare to the above? I am in the mood to order seeds. What about Aunt Ginny's Purple?

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Helen, I am sure you'll get lots of responses because I know that several of us here do grow black tomatoes.

Now, first, a note for folks who are new to black and tomatoes: the black tomatoes are not really black. In the tomato world, the term 'black' refers to tomatoes with an exterior appearance that ranges from maroon to mahoghany to brownish-purplish-reddish-greenish shades that are hard to describe. Some black tomatoes have pretty much the same coloring all over the tomato, while others tend to have green shoulders with darker colors on the remainder of the fruit. A few, like Indian Stripe and Chocolate Stripes, have a reddish-maroonish-purplish background with actual green stripes. In some varieties the green stripes fade as the fruit ripens but in others they remain separate and distinct.

As you might expect, purple tomatoes are not really purple. They tend to be a pinkish-purplish-dark pinkish-red. They are very similar to pink tomatoes in appearance, but just a bit darker. Purple tomatoes can be listed in some catalogs as separate from blacks or pinks, but in others you'll see some listed as blacks or some as pinks. Regardless of the way they are categorized, the blacks, purples and pinks are my favorite groups in terms of flavor.

Here's the black ones I've grown, to the best of my memory to recall them. I may not remember them all:

Black Cherry--Along with SunGold, an absolute must-grow every year. Simply the best cherry tomato ever whose name is not SunGold.

True Black Brandywine--If you get the correct seed for this one, it is just about the most amazing black tomato on earth with a flavor that is like but not identical to regular Brandywine but which also has taste notes of traditonal black tomatoes. I love this one. I've grown one called Black Brandywine that was inferior to True Black Brandywine, and the best TBB I've grown was from seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed the very first year it was offered.

Black Krim (aka sold as Black Crimson and very similar to Noire de Crimmee): One of the first black tomatoes I grew and I loved it from the first sweety-salty bite. I had trouble with these the first year because I didn't understand exactly what color the fruit should be and kept waiting for the green shoulders to ripen. They don't really ripen, so I was letting the fruit get too ripe. After I corrected that error and started picking them at their prime, they were just about the best tomato I'd ever tasted at that time...coming in a close second to Brandywine and about equal to Cherokee Purple.

Southern Night: The earliest black I grew after Black Krim. I may have tried them the same year. All I remember about this one is that while it had great flavor, it also was plagued by disease so I don't grow it any more. Twice in my life I have had problems with southern blight killing a tomato plant, and both years, it was Southern Night. So, for me, Southern Night = Southern Blight and I don't bother planting it. To be fair to the variety, I had a lot of southern blight and cotton root rot issues in our early years here, converting a former cotton field to a garden. I don't know if I'd have the same issues nowadays with greatly improved soil. I haven't lost a plant to southern blight or to cotton root rot in about 8 or 10 years now.

Black Prince--a very good one but the fruit are smaller than most other black varieties I've grown.

Black Plum---Oh wow. This one was a shocker. I expected the standard black tomato taste that you get from most black tomatoes, and this one has a more unique flavor that is outstanding. In the years when I grew this often, our mail carrier loved for me to leave bags of these hanging on the mail box for her. She ate them as snacks while driving the rest of her mail route. They make a great sauce but also are very good fresh.

Black From Tula--This one gets huge and has very outstanding flavor. I began to grow it more often than Black Krim because it doesn't have the issues with the shoulders cracking. It also tends to produce a bigger fruit deeper in the season. As with many tomatoes, especially in our climate, you often get the largest fruit early in the season and smaller fruit as the season wears on. With BFT, the fruit stay bigger later in the season.

Black Seaman--Also has outstanding flavor and produces a lot of fruit per plant. The fruit on mine were smaller than some of the other black types, but it produced loads of fruit later in the season when others slowed down.

Chocolate Stripes--Really outstanding flavor. One of my best producers in 2009 which was a very difficult drought summer following incredibly heavy rainfall for about six weeks in late April through early June. Terrific flavor, sets fruit almost all summer long if kept well-watered, and the fruit are gorgeous. This variety has less foliar disease issues that many others. One of the most gorgeous tomatoes you'll ever'll think they are too pretty to eat, but they'll taste so good you'll eat them anyway. This is somewhat rare in that it is a large indeterminate plant that will produce just as heavily in large (15-20 gallon) containers as it does in the ground. Usually I get fewer fruit per plant in containers, but not with Chocolate Stripes.

Indian Stripe--To me this falls in the purple/black category though it also has lots of green in it until it is pretty ripe. I do like it better than Cherokee Purple, which was my favorite purple for a long time. The flavor is almost identical, but Indian Stripe produces more fruit per plant and produces longer before the heat shuts them down. There was a point in my life when I thought nothing could take the place of Cherokee Purple, until Indian Stripe came along.

Carbon--A very smooth shape without the lumpiness and rough shoulders associated with some black tomato varieties. Very good flavor.

Japanese Black Trifele--This one was only okay. I grew it for a couple of years and it never produced very many fruit per plant. The flavor was fine, but there are black fruited tomatoes that produce better than this one---much better.

Pierce's Pride--From BCHS. I grew this twice and each time it didn't grow well and didn't produce well, so I gave up on it.

Paul Robeson--For whatever reason, this plant does not grow well in my garden. I have tried to grow it many times and if I can even manage to keep it alive long enough to transplant it into the ground, it tends to die in May or early June before it produces a single ripe fruit. I gave up on it long ago.

Nyagous--This produces smaller black tomatoes in irregular clusters of 3, 4, or 5 in my garden. They aren't bad and have typical black flavor, but I don't grow it very often. I like the black varieties that produce bigger tomatoes better.

Brad's Black Heart--Produced really well for me in a couple of really bad drought years. Is a wonderful fruit with good flavor. It set fruit pretty early and I liked it, but then it fizzled out in the drought of 2011 and I haven't grown it since. It will get a chance in my garden again in a year when I am expecting rain to actually fall from the sky with some degree of regularity. This is a Wild Boar Farms variety

Black and Brown Boar--Another one from Wild Boar Farms. This produces black and green striped tomatoes in huge quanities. They are very tasty and the plant itself produces better in drought than just about any of WBF's other varieties that I've grown. I really like this one. It was one of my best producers in 2012.

Large Barred Boar--Remind me, in appearance, somewhat of Chocolate Stripes or, in other words, is a larger-fruited variety than Black and Brown Boar. Very tasty but did not produce many fruit per plant for me. I've only tried it in drought years. I'd like to see how it does in a regular year or a wet year.

Black Mystery--Last year was my first year to grow this one. It produced loads of fruit all summer long, being one of the last plants to stop flowering and setting fruit in the July-August heat. It stayed alive even after I stopped watering the garden and put out new growth, blossoms and fruit in the fall. They were smaller than many of the blacks I grow and had a sort of oblate-globe shape. I really liked these.

Burgundy Traveler--This is similar to Traveler 76 but with a purplish-pinkish-black coloration. It produced scads and scads of fruit all summer and fall in 2012 and still was blooming and setting fruit when frost got the plants in late fall. This one was very impressive because it barely slowed down in the heat at all, making it an instant favorite here for me. The fruit are smaller (or at least they were in 2012) than the other purples I grow, but it produced them endlessly. Often this is clasified as a pink, but in my garden and climate, it produces fruit darker than the typical pink.

Black Ethiopian--I tried this twice and it didn't do well either year, so I shrugged and moved on to try other blacks that would perform better.

Now, I've saved a handful of the best blacks for last:

Gary 'O Sena--Currently at the top of my 'must grow' list every year. This one produces huge yields of very big purplish-blackish fruit very early for me. They have amazing flavor. This variety is from a Keith Mueller cross of Brandywine x Cherokee Purple and it astonishes me every year with its huge, early production of big tomatoes with outstanding flavor that my taste buds love. If I could grow only one non-cherry black, it would be this one, but a close second would be....

JD'S Special C-Tex--The fruit of this one are about the same size in my garden as Gary 'O Sena though not the same shape. The flavor is superb. It sets fruit early but also continues to set well in the heat. I think that if worst came to worse and I could only plant a couple of varieties, I could be happy with just Gary 'O Sena, JD's Special C Tex, Black Cherry and SunGold.

Spudakee Purple-This one is from Spudakee Willie. It is essentially a Cherokee Purple with potato-leaved foliage. Great flavor and great production of dusky pinkish-purple fruit that aren't quite as dark as black tomatoes. Wonderful flavor and stays healthier in my garden than Cherokee Purple. (In general potato-leaved tomato foliage seems more tolerant of foliar diseases than regular-leaved tomato foliage.) I love this variety.

Spudatula--Another great producer of pinkish-purplish fruit with great flavor. This is a potato-leaved version of Black From Tula. Also sometimes traded by seed collectors as Black From Tula PL.

Aunt Ginny's Purple is a very good one though it often has real issues with foliar diseases when I grow it here. The flavor is good and it produces well. All things considered, I usually grow Pruden's Purple instead. If you get the correct Pruden's Purple seed (my favorite PP is from seed purchased from Gleckler Seedmen), it will give you amazing numbers of large purple tomatoes.

Hope this helps.

I look forward to hearing about the black (and purple) tomato varieties others here have grown.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 5:15PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Wow! I knew I would get a good answer but I didn't expect this. My seed order will be influenced by your comments.

Thank you very much for your report. I don't know where I could get this much information on black tomatoes in one spot. I am impressed.

I realize you are miles from me and have clay soil while I have rocks, but you have actually grown them opposed to a description repeated over and over in the catalogs.

Anyone else who has grown any black tomatoes please chime in. Some of you may have conditions closer to mine.

I grow Cherokee Purple and like it every year. I planted Gary O'Senna last year. I got a few good tomatoes from it but it was planted later and nothing planted at the normal time did very well. I have not had luck with any of the Wild Boar Farms tomatoes. Not a fair evaluation because I don't have enough water in summer to water everything. The last two years have been horrible. I always grow Pale Perfect Purple (which is pink) and it did well because I started it early and took good care of it.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 6:07PM
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Helen, I am near Grove and I really like Carbon and Black Krim, and of course Black Cherry. I was glad to see Dawn's list also because I haven't tried some of those she recommended.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 7:10PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Thank you soonergm. I am 24 miles from Grove so I am glad to hear about what you grow.

Dawn are you saying True Black Brandywine is not stable or was the first year you got it from Baker Creek just a good tomato growing year? Some of the forums are a little snooty about its origin. It is interesting to me that you say Prudens Purple from Gecklers is good. I know when he started up that business, he got donations of seed from some tomato oldtimers wanting him to succeed. You are telling me if I am reading it correctly that not all Prudens Purples are the same. I am wondering if I should try Black Cherry again because maybe the one I had was not the best one out there. I didn't know when it was ripe. Stinkbugs are bad here so I don't eat cherry tomatoes in the garden like you do.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 7:35PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I hope Jay sees this and adds his comments if he has time because he has grown some black ones I haven't tried.

Carol, I went through a huge trialing of black varieties throughout most of the 2000s and I "think" I finally have a pretty stable list of favorites. Once I found JD's Special C-Tex (which I've seen referred to as pink, purple and, Gary O Sena, Spudakee Purple, Spudatula, TBB, Black Mystery and a couple of others, I decided I had achieved black (and pink and purple) tomato perfection and could stop looking for a better black (or pink or purple) variety. It has been a fun search, but I'm kinda ready to just settle down and enjoy the ones I've found. Now my trialing attention is transferring to different things---last year it was container tomatoes, this year it is paste and saucing tomatoes.

Helen, You're welcome.

I think that there is more than one tomato sold as Black Brandywine. I had tried plain old Black Brandywine from a couple of different seed companies and it was nothing special. Because I really like William Woys Weaver, having read many of his writings in magazines and some of his books over the years, I was really excited when Baker Creek offered True Black Brandywine because I had read about it in one of W. Weaver's books. When I planted it, I knew that I had the "real deal" and that the plain "Black Brandywine" I'd grown from other sources was an also-ran. Now I only plant TBB and only when I purchase it from one of a handful of highly-trusted sources. I'll never plant the plain Black Brandywine again.

I feel like the same thing has been true of Pruden's Purple. I've grown some that were excellent, and some that I was sure, after the fact, were not truly Pruden's Purple. You just have to go with reliable seed producers and then let them know if they are selling something that does not seem true to type.

I have had an uneven experience with heirloom or OP tomato seed purchased from various sources over the years. Sometimes I've had seeds that grew true-to-type fruit that I expected and other times I got something completely different. That is very frustrating. When Adam reopened Gleckler Seedmen, I was excited about trying his seed because I knew he got his varieties from long-time seed savers who work very hard to keep their seed true-to-type. Nowadays, Gleckler is my first stop for heirloom/OP tomato seed. If they don't have what I am looking for, I usually look next at either Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, SSE or Victory Seeds. All of them have always provided seed that was true to type. I avoid a lot of the other seed purveyors although I do like Tomatofest too. I just think that since OP seed can cross fairly easily, it is easy for huge commercial growers to end up with crossed seed when they produce millions of seed per year. How much close attention do they give those seeds in the acres and acres of fields? I think when you are dealing with the smaller companies who grow their own and also contract out to small growers (some of whom post here at GW and at other forums), they have better control over their seed and keep it true to type. I like shopping from Sample Seed Shop for the same reason. I trust seed from Remy to be true to type. It has taken me a long time to weed my way through a bunch of tomato varieties to find the ones the do best here, and then on top of that, I had to weed through a bunch of companies that either did or did not sell seed that produces true-to-type plants and fruits. As a result, I am pickier every year over who I'll buy seed from. As a consequence, though, I have fewer disappointments than before.

And that reminds me (sadly) of another black variety that was a letdown. It was from BCHS and was called Pierce's Pride and it just wasn't a good grower or producer.

I think with any heirloom or OP seed, we have to watch our plants and fruit as they grow and develop and be sure the ones we're growing are the tomatoes we are expecting. If companies are selling crossed seed, that is their fault...but it is our fault if we tolerate it. So, I "vote" for the companies selling true-to-type seed by giving them my money. Any company can get a bad batch of seed that is crossed and I understand that, but when it happens over and over, I stop ordering tomato seeds from that company. One thing I was noticing from seeds from some suppliers in the mid-2000s and ever since then was that some varieties that should be large oblate fruit were churning our fruit that was getting smaller and more globe-shaped. That shouldn't happen and it happened far too often, so I started going with retailers who were a little 'off the beaten path' and not so well-known. You know, I think the 'little guys' do try harder to get our business and to keep it.

The hard thing about tomato flavor is that all of us have different taste buds and our taste buds perceive flavors differently. So, with taste being subjective, maybe the flavor of Black Cherry just doesn't appeal to your taste buds. It happens, you know. Maybe you harvested the fruit a little early or a little late. And, unfortunately, stinkbugs can ruin the flavor of fruit too. I try to get my tomatoes in the ground as early as possible so I can just close the garden gate and walk away at a certain point if stinkbugs get too bad. Usually in the years when this happens, it happens in August when the heat makes being out in the garden pretty miserable anyway. The stink bugs ruin my fruit here once they are present in high numbers.

One problem I've noticed with stink bugs is that they are so much worse in dry years. In a wet year, I barely see them at all. Since 2003, though, the dry years have far outnumbered the wet years and consequently the heat-loving pests like spider mites, stink bugs, grasshoppers and blister beetles have been ridiculously bad year after year. I'd love a good wet year so I wouldn't have to deal with them.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 8:41PM
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Dawn, the insects are so different here from year to year that I never know what to expect. It must be greatly influenced by the weather.

I almost never have a horn worm, and the most I have ever seen was five in one year and that was very late in the year. It has probably been 5 years since I have seen one.

I had never seen a harlequin bug in my garden until last year, and they almost drove me crazy. I normally grow lovely Chinese cabbage and in 2012 they attacked it with gusto.

Some years the Japanese beetles are horrible and last year I only had a few and they mostly ate grape leaves. In past years they have also attacked the okra and green beans, especially Kentucky Wonder.

I didn't see a potato beetle all summer, and nothing bothered my cucumbers at all. I had so many cucumbers from my Spring planting that I didn't even plant a second time.

I grew squash under cover until they bloomed, but eventually the squash bugs came in and took out all of the summer squash except the Trombocini Rampicante. The unknown winter squash that was supposed to be Seminole, growing on a trellis, was not bothered at all, but the winter squash growing on the ground had lots of bugs.

The tomatoes started to produce early and did fine for 4-6 weeks, then I had that attack of the small black bugs. They just landed and died on the plant, but they must have carried some disease with them because my plants started looking bad soon after that. Of course, the extreme heat started about the same time, so I'm not really sure which caused the most damage.

Peppers had no problems at all and continued to produce until they froze.

Cabbage looper moths were everywhere I looked and just seemed to hover over the garden looking for a place to land. I had my broccoli under row cover and they would fly back and forth over it trying to find a way to get to it. There were more that I had ever had before.

I am letting the chickens roam the garden for about three months hoping they will destroy some of the over-wintering things.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 12:45PM
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Two blacks not listed previously are Ananas Noire and Dana's Dusky Rose.

Ananas Noire produces well for me and has a combo of two traits I like, fruity and smoky. Everytime I eat it I think of slabs of pineapple cooked on the grill.

Dana's Dusky Rose has great flavor and produces as prolifically as any heirloom slicer I grow.

For all the times I have grown Cherokee Purple plants, I may have harvested a total of five tomatoes. Indian Stripe blows it away. I'm a fan.

Black Cherry and Carbon are both very good.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 1:03PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Dawn, you sent me Black Prince in your seed offer several years ago. The one you sent was a much easier to grow tomato than CP and Black from Tula. I think the skin must be a bit thicker it didn't rot. CP is a fragile tomato if some worm or a crack forms, it will rot. Black Prince was a higher than wide globe, smaller and not as pretty. The picture shown at Double Helix is a flattened shaped one. I just wanted to try it to see how it compared to your version. I still have a couple of your seeds; I will try to get both kinds.

I ordered JD's, Black Cherry, Black Mystery, and Indian Stripe from Gleckler's - didn't like the change in envelopes but that is a minor thing. I may already have some of these varieties but I wanted to try Black Cherry again for sure because everyone raves and I didn't like it. It is very possible there are different ones out there and since I keep wondering that I should settle the issue.

I also ordered Black Krim, and Chocolate Stripes on these recommendations. (Also Greek Rose, Stump of the World which are not blacks.)

I have Carbon someone gave me that I have never grown and will try those if they germinate.

I am holding back on the True Black Brandywine since it would involve another company and more seeds to justify an order.

THANKS for all the enabling.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 2:58PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You are so very welcome. I EXCEL at enabling. : )
It sounds like you are going to have a dazzling mix of black tomatoes (and non-blacks as well) this year.

I look forward to seeing how Double Helix does for you. It is one that I've never grown.

I agree that CP is very fragile, and that's why I began growing Indian Stripe instead of it. Once I started growing JD's Special C-Tex, I found it fairly easy to more or less forget about CP. JD's Special C-Tex reminds me a great deal of CP, but it doesn't crack and split as easily.

Carbon performed very well in my garden last year and I was so happy with it. It has been an erratic performer here, doing very well in some years and not in others. I am not sure if that is more of a weather-related growing conditions type thing, or maybe a seed source thing. Gleckler's is my go-to source for all tomatoes now. If there is a variety they carry that I want, I always buy it from them. Then, if I want a variety they don't carry, I go someplace else like Victory Seeds, Willhite, SESE, SSE, Sample Seed Shop, Baker Creek or Tomatofest to look for what I want. I think I could be pretty happy with only yellow, orange, pink, purple and black tomatoes but some of my family and friends insist upon having red ones too.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 3:38PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I wasn't clear because I have looked at the Double Helix site so much that I didn't take time to explain it is a seed source. It has a Black Prince picture that looks like a different tomato from the one I grew before. We had discussed seed sources having different tomatoes with the same name.

Here is a link that might be useful: different look Black Prince

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 3:51PM
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My True Black Brandywine seeds were from the following link. These the correct ones?


Here is a link that might be useful: True Black Brandywine?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 4:53PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

They are also sold here if the info is reliable.

Here is a link that might be useful: southern seed exchange

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 5:37PM
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Helen, while its a subjective matter, I was able to tell if the Black Cherry tomatos were ripe, not just by the color of the fruit, but by touch or feel. To me, they are a bit softer when ripe, kinda like a soft grape. Anyone else have a description of how they can tell when a Black Cherry tomato is ripe? That's the best I can do, and I think someone told me that this method worked well for them. I'm almost positive I didn't come up with it on my own, lol!


    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 7:41PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Thank you Susan. I pick other tomatoes when they blush and bring them in so I don't know why I try to pick cherries one at a time avoiding split ones etc. I am thinking maybe I could figure out a better way. Black Cherry is an enormous plant that crowded out and grew over other plants. I think I should allow for its size and that would also make it easier to pick. I really prefer big slicers but in summer I eat tomatoes breakfast lunch and dinner; variety is fun. My sister lives in CA and she had a cherry tomato outside the back door on a trellis so everytime you go in and out you grab one or two. Mine were in my tomato jungle.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 8:47PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Reed, The listing at Sustainable Seed sounds right and the photos look right, but I've never purchased TBB seed from them and can't vouch for whether or not their seeds are the correct ones. Since they list it as a PL, which it is, and since the plain Black Brandywine is unstable and produces PL foliage sometimes and RL at other times, I suspect this is the right one.

Some heirloom tomato experts take exception to William Woys Weaver's description of TBB. Well, I don't care if the history is accurate or not. What I care about is flavor and production, and in my garden TBB gives me great flavor and great production, and the RL Black Brandywine does not. They could call this tomato That Black Thing and I'd still grow it.

SESE, linked by Helen, does sell the right seed too. I've never purchased tomato seed from SESE that was not true to type, so when you grow out the TBB that you have, if it disappoints you, I'd try the one from SESE. If you read the True Black Brandywine page at TTB, you'll see that they mention that SESE is offering the seed, though ultimately they dropped the 'true' from the front of the name and now just sell it as Black Brandywine.

Susan, I know we have discussed the softness of the fruit being an indicator of ripeness many times. Once you know the right degree of softness that indicates perfect ripeness, you can pick tomatoes in the dark!


Here is a link that might be useful: True Black Brandywine at Tatiana's Tomato Base

This post was edited by okiedawn on Thu, Jan 17, 13 at 11:25

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 10:08PM
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sure glad I found this forum...hope to be able to add/

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 7:34PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Welcome to the forum. We can talk gardening endlessly here....and we do.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 11:10AM
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Dawn, I was rereading this thread and brought up the link to the Sustainable Seed variety of TBB, and noticed that it says "dry farmed strain". Does this mean anything as far as the variety of the one sold by SS versus the one sold by SESE? I know what dry farming is, but because SS points that out, I am wondering if it distinguishes the TBB varieties in some way.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 7:11AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I have no idea if the seed being dryland farmed would make a difference in the plants produced by the seed or not. Would they be more drought tolerant? More heat tolerant? I have no idea.

In theory, if the tomato plants that produce the seed are dry land farmed year in and year out, saving their own seed and using it each year to produce plants that produce the seed crop, then over a period of time you would think the seed and the plants produced by it would become better adapted to hot and dry conditions. Much would hinge on where SS is based and on what the weather/climate is like where they're dryland farming.

The only way a person could know for sure would be to buy seeds from both sources and grow the plants side by side and see if there was an obvious difference in performance.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 11:19AM
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