Last Updated: April 7, 2023
The world of tomato varieties gets more interesting every year. From the massive, squiggly orange accordion tomato to the variegated round robin, growing tomatoes is more exciting than ever. There are also a wide variety of black tomato types, including the Black Beauty tomato.
In 2012, plant breeders at OSU developed the Indigo Rose tomato, the first of its kind with high levels of purple pigments in the plant’s fruits. Since then, breeders have worked to create more purple and black varieties through natural plant breeding methods.
In this article, I will go over some interesting facts and growing tips about the Black Beauty tomato. Many of these subjects apply to other dark-skinned tomato varieties that are available to grow. Let’s get started!
What Makes Them Black?
The deep color of the black beauty tomato comes from high anthocyanin levels. These compounds are also known as purple pigments, and are powerful antioxidants. They are also found in high levels in blueberries, causing their deep blue color.
This category of tomatoes are now commonly known as “Antho” tomatoes for their high anthocyanin levels. They make for a spectacle in the garden and currently exist in many different shapes and sizes.
When anthocyanins are exposed to light, they are activated, causing black beauty tomatoes to turn purple or almost black. If the tomato is shaded by leaves or is not hit by direct sunlight, the purple pigment will not develop.
Fun Fact: Black tomato varieties may appear more red when grown in acidic soil, and more blue-purple when grown in alkaline soil. However, tomatoes prefer a slightly acidic soil, so don’t expect good things with a soil pH above 7.0.
Thankfully, anthocyanins are almost entirely flavorless, so the deep, black color of the tomatoes does not impact flavor in a negative way. As a result, the Black Beauty tomato variety is regarded as a delicious slicing tomato, with balanced sugar and acid levels. Just make sure you wait for the tomatoes to fully ripen before picking!
How Do You Know When Black Tomatoes Are Ripe?
When typical tomato varieties are ripe, they turn from a green color to a bright red or yellow. This color transition is easy to identify, making it simple to know when to harvest those varieties. For black tomato varieties, it can be a bit trickier.
In general, black tomatoes are ripe when the color turns from a blue-purple tone to a deeper, reddish-purple color. The tomato will also soften considerably when fully ripe, and the underside of the tomatoes may turn from green to a deep red color.
Anthocyanins are activated by sunlight, so it is common for the underside of black tomatoes to remain green while unripe. Inspect the bottom of your black beauty tomatoes for coloration changes as the season goes on. They should turn from green to a deep red when they are ripe.
In addition to color changes, ripe tomatoes soften when they are ready for harvesting. Squeeze the tomatoes gently while they are still on the plant. If they are stiff, they most likely are not ready to be picked.
Black Beauty Tomato Seeds
There are many sources for buying tomato seeds online. One reliable source of heirloom varieties is Rare Seeds (and yes, they sell the black beauty tomato).
Find black beauty tomato seeds:
This tomato variety has become incredibly popular for its unique traits, so don’t be surprised to find that seeds are sold out in some stores, especially later in the spring.
Another option is to save tomato seeds from a fresh tomato from the store. I do this all the time with tomatoes and peppers to save a few bucks and make sourcing unique seed varieties easier. Since black beauty is an heirloom variety, saving the seeds should yield the same tomatoes.
Whole Foods often carries a variety of unique heirloom tomatoes that can be bought for relatively cheap. This way, you get to enjoy a fresh tomato for eating, and you get seeds for planting in the garden. I would recommend buying organic fruits if possible.
Are Purple Tomatoes Safe to Eat?
We all know that some antioxidants are healthy for humans, but anthocyanins may still need to undergo more research to discover real-world benefits. However, there is no evidence that I know of that indicates that purple or black tomatoes are unsafe.
In fact, anthocyanins are found in high levels in blueberries, which are, of course, very safe and healthy to eat. You can also buy fresh black beauty tomatoes from certain specialty markets, meaning they are approved for mass market sale.
All things considered, the black beauty tomato and other purple-black varieties are likely as healthy or more so than red tomatoes. We will have to pay attention to further research into how anthocyanins may benefit humans.
Other Black Heirloom Tomatoes
Since 2012, tomato breeders have continued to experiment with cross pollinating black tomato varieties. As a result, there are a large number of unique black tomato types available to grow.
Keep in mind, many of the newer varieties are still in development, meaning that the plants and resulting fruits can be unstable. If you are interested in growing the unknown, then definitely look into what is currently in development (ex. F2, F3, etc.).
Here are a few that are out there today:
Bred in 2012 by OSU, the Indigo Rose tomato was the first of its kind. The goal of breeders was to achieve high levels of antioxidants in the actual fruits. The result was a gorgeous, flavorful, medium productivity cherry type tomato that was named the Indigo Rose for it’s purplish black color.
Similar in shape and size to the black beauty, the blue beauty tomato has a gorgeous indigo hue and a deep red inner flesh. These jumbo tomatoes can weigh up to 8 oz. and are perfect for slicing. Ditch the old beefsteak tomato varieties and introduce some unique color to your tomato garden this year!
These medium-sized tomatoes are another example of a black tomato type. They range in weight from 3-7 oz. and are said to be extremely productive. Like the black beauty, these are indeterminate, meaning they will continue to produce fruits until the cold weather arrives in late fall.
I hope that you found this article interesting and helpful. Share any new info you learned about the black beauty tomato with other tomato gardeners! Also, be sure to share anything I may have missed in the comments below.