Indigo Rose Tomatoes

When you’re just getting thoroughly tired of winter–about late November or  very early January–the seed catalogs start to appear in the mail box.  You spend hours happily looking through them and anticipating planting seed.  There are all those gorgeous pictures and the descriptions.  For me this is especially a problem with tomatoes.  So, every year I end up wanting something new–in addition to those heirlooms that I always want (Black Krim, Cherokee Purple). Last year my new addition was a Japanese Black Trifle.  It’s now become one of the regulars, and is close to replacing the Black Krim because it tastes wonderful and produces more tomatoes.

This past winter the tomato that aroused my curiosity most was an Indigo Rose, described in Johnny’s Select Seeds as a cocktail sized tomato, dark purple because of the anthocyanins (anti-oxidants) which develop in areas of the skin exposed to direct sunlight. To further titillate, it was described as ” good flavor with ‘plummy’ overtones. Developed by Jim Myers at Oregon State University using traditional plant breeding techniques. Moderately vigorous. Compact indeterminate. Organically grown.”  Now, who could possibly resist that in the midst of grey skies and cold rain?  Yes, I ordered some seeds.

Sprays of unripe Indigo Rose Tomatoes on the vine

unripe Indigo Rose tomatoes

Now we are harvesting them from the garden and fields–the acid test, so to speak.  I’ll concede that they are moderately vigorous, compact indeterminate, and very striking when you see them in the garden even when unripe the purple anthocyanin pigment is really obvious.

As they ripen to red (thus, the “Rose”, I guess) they really are lovely–impressive to be perfectly honest about it.

The very first ones that I tasted left me somewhat ambivalent about the taste–maybe I  tried them before that were appropriately ripe, or maybe I just like a different style of tomatoes–anyhow, there were different opinions.

Ripe Indigo Rose tomatoes

ripe Indigo Rose on the vine

Now that I’ve tasted some that I’m sure are really ripe, and tried them in several different ways, other than just eaten out of hand, I’m more interested in exploring different things to do with them.

I have to say that they are not going to make it on to my bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich–not nearly tart enough to stand up to the really good dry cured kind of bacon that I like to put on my BLTs.  (I would put a Black Krim, or a Japanese Black Trifele, or a Brandy Boy on my BLT, though.) But–there are lots of tomatoes that I really like for different uses that don’t make it onto the BLT either–so no strike against the Indigo Rose for that reason.

My impression eating them out of hand is that they are a very low acid tomato.  Usually I prefer higher acid tomatoes–a balance of tomato-tart and tomato-sweet.  So this is not going to be my choice of tomato for my sloppy, eat-over-the-sink-with-mayo tomato sandwich (which needs to be on white bread, too, by the way!) either.

But–one of my other summer favorites is insalata Caprese.  One of the fun things to do when making this salad is to have different kinds of tomatoes–lots of visual appeal–like Green or Red Zebras, some pink, some purple–whatever!  I tried these with the fresh mozzarella and extra-virgin olive oil, and just a tiny drizzle of a good balsamic vinegar.  The sweet-tartness of the balsamic really showed the sweet tomato flavor of the Indigo Rose tomatoes.  I did not (I know Indigo rose tomatoes in basket after pickingit’s heresy, but I did not) put basil on this salad–I used Syrian oregano, and it was a lovely salad.

For more taste and visual contrast I might combine these with an orange or yellow (also lower acid) tomato, but not with high acid tomatoes–I think that would just make the Indigo Rose ones taste bland–but that’s the next experiment!  A reason to go tomato shopping at the Wake Forest Farmers’ market tomorrow.

Another way that I’d like to try them is slowly oven-roasted to concentrate the flavors–I think that will really bring out the sweet, plummy flavor–again another experiment.  They are a good size to use in green salads, but I’d want a pretty mellow vinaigrette with them–maybe just extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

6 thoughts on “Indigo Rose Tomatoes

  1. I grew Indigo Rose this year. The first fruit I picked in August were still not ripe. (How do you tell when a black tomato is ripe, anyway?) I’d just about given up on them…a beautiful plant, but taste? not so great.

    However, Seattle has had an unseasonably warm September and October. These babies really came on. They never seem to soften as they ripen like the other tomatoes do, so I find it difficult to gauge when they’re ripe.

    I love them as an alternative to my Stupice, and Green Zebras. I’ll definitely grow them again. I like mine in a Caprese style salad with Balsalmic vinegar, or broiled with a bit of garlic bread crumbs on top. The latter is excellent with salmon!


    • They are ripe when the parts in the shade turn red–mine never really got soft either–which I rather like. Once ripe, I liked them in Caresse-style salad, too. For a lot of other uses, I like a more acid tomato. These need that contrast of a bit of tang from the vinegar. Broiled with a bit of garlic sounds great too. I’ll have to try them that way next year–I do plan to plant them again.


  2. I bought some of these this morning as well, and I love them. They’re just as tasty as they are beautiful! Thank you for introducing them to the farmers’ market crowd!


  3. Just bought a bunch of these Indigos, they’re just beautiful! I think they’ll be wonderful in a pasta salad, they’re really low acid, and they are very meaty, but not at all grainy. Using them in anything that requires a nice tomato taste but not a lot of the seedy watery tomato juice will work fine. I will make the pasta salad with a fusilli pasta, some toasted pine nuts, fresh basil and I’ll probably throw in some mozzarella as well. I’ll top this off with a balsamic vinaigrette and eat it all immediately! Serve slightly warm to get all the taste. Also, serve with a nice crusty bread to soak up the juice! These are so yummy!!! Thanks!


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