Have you ever seen black tomatoes? The fruit is jet black on the outside and juicy purple-red on the inside. The colors of Albania in tomatoes might look very strange indeed but surprisingly they are excellent as part of your diet.

The ‘Indigo Rose’ is a new, strangely-colored variety of tomato. These colors might not sound very appealing, but black tomatoes are supposed to be very tasty, and most importantly, rich in antioxidants. Indigo Rose is a cross-breed between red and purple tomatoes, and is the latest ‘superfood’ to hit the market.

The fruit, bred by scientists in America, contain a special antioxidant called anthocyanin. Anthocyanin is responsible for fighting diseases like diabetes and obesity, and is the main pigment that lends the tomato its purple color. And when the purple tomatoes are mixed with the regular red ones, the resultant breed turns out black.

Black tomatoes were first bred by Professor Jim Myers at the University of Oregon, during a graduate study about the health benefits of tomatoes. When they discovered that purple tomatoes contained anthocyanin, which also provides color to blueberries, they decided to cross them with some wild red ones. Eventually, they came up with a black strain.

A company based out of Devon County, has secured the rights to start selling the new plants for the first time in the UK.

During the growth process, these tomatoes start out green and turn black when exposed to sunlight. Photo: WebLibrary

So what makes the Indigo Rose so different from other dark tomato breeds? According to Myers, it’s all in the genes. “If you want a really, really purple tomato that can be as black as an eggplant, give Indigo Rose a try,” he said. “Other so-called purple and black tomatoes have the green flesh gene, which prevents normal chlorophyll breakdown.”

During the growth process, these tomatoes start out green and turn black when exposed to sunlight. This is because the anthocyanins get produced in the fruit only when light touches the surface. If you pick an Indigo Rose and expose the non-purple area to sunlight, it will turn purple in about a week.

But he cautioned planters against picking the fruit too soon – it needs to ripen fully for complete development of sugars and acids. The average first ripe date is about 91 days after planting. These black tomatoes do give a pretty good yield, and Myers insists that they are not GMO (genetically modified organisms)

Now that the Indigo Rose has been successfully launched to consumer markets, Myers and his team are already thinking of their next big project. They intend to target cherry tomatoes as the next of several new versions in the Indigo-anthocyanin series. It will take three years to breed- these new tomatoes are also expected to be black and really high on flavor./AgroWeb.org