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Top 10 heirloom tomato varieties announced for 2008: Black tomatoes are gaining popularity


March 7, 2008
By Fruit & Vegetable

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Black-coloured tomatoes are stealing the show among heirloom tomato varieties, according to a top 10 list recently released by TomatoFest® Garden Seeds, an online organic heirloom tomato seed retailer.

Black-coloured tomatoes are stealing the show among heirloom tomato varieties, according to a top 10 list recently released by TomatoFest® Garden Seeds, an online organic heirloom tomato seed retailer.
“It’s not just red and pink tomatoes … on the top 10 list anymore,” said Gary Ibsen, owner of TomatoFest. He also grows 600 varieties of certified organic, heirloom tomatoes on his farm in California.

“The purple/black-coloured heirloom tomatoes continue to rise in popularity at produce markets, with restaurant chefs, and with home gardeners for the fifth year in a row,” says Ibsen. “Black tomatoes are fast becoming the new red tomato. They’re the Cinderellas of the produce market.”

TomatoFest creates its top 10 list based on a survey of its tomato seed sales to commercial tomato farmers and home gardeners plus a review of the company’s fresh heirloom tomato sales to retailers and restaurants.

During recent years, California-based Happy Boy Farms, one of the largest grower/shippers of heirloom tomatoes in the nation, has also experienced an increase in demand for black tomatoes among produce retailers plus restaurant accounts.

“This is exciting news,” Ibsen said. “It shows that consumers are being more adventurous in selecting the dark-coloured varieties of heirloom tomatoes that only a few years ago were next to impossible to find in the marketplace.”

Black tomatoes aren’t really black. “They cover a range of dark colours, including deep purple, dusky deep brown, smoky mahogany with dark green shoulders, and bluish-brown,” explains Ibsen. “The depth of colours seems to be encouraged by a higher acid and mineral content in the soil.”

Black tomatoes are native to southern
Ukraine, appearing during the early 19th century. They originally existed in only a small region of the Crimean Peninsula. Soon they were showing up as new varieties in many shapes and sizes and began to appear throughout the territories of the former Soviet Union. Then they began turning up in the former Yugoslavia, Germany and the United States.

The top 10 favourite heirloom tomatoes, according to TomatoFest, are: Paul Robeson (purple/black), Cherokee Purple (purple/black), Brandywine (pink), Amana Orange (orange), Marvel Stripe (red/yellow striped), Julia Child (pink), Black Zebra (green/purple striped), Black Cherry (purple/black), Kellogg’s Breakfast (orange), and Aussie (red).

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