Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How To Grow Black Cherry Tomatoes

After 30 days of cold rain in May killed my husky cherry tomato plant, I went back to the garden center for a new one. I saw an heirloom variety and my interest was piqued. I brought home the Black Cherry Tomato instead, and have not regretted it. My plant has gotten to be six and a half feet tall, and has been loaded with tomatoes since July. I have filled my freezer, and have two large bowls on my counter full of them. I've even handed some off to family. I've got to learn to make sauce! Their deep flavor is more rich than tangy, and they also make a great bruschetta.  They're so easy to grow, everyone should have one!


Fruit size: 1.5 inches
Maturity: 64 days
Plant spacing: 36 inches apart
Plant size: 6 to 8 feet tall
Plant type: Indeterminate
Type: Open-pollinated
Light requirements: Full sun (6 to 8 hours)

This highly productive cherry tomato plant loads up with round, dark fruits with rich, sweet flavor. Great for shish-kebabs and salads, or for snacking right off the vine.  I also love to eat them in omelets, on pizza, as bruschetta, and in pasta. The growth of the vines can be quite vigorous, so use a tall cage. Mine outgrew my cage shortly after planting, so I used six foot bamboo poles and twine to create a taller cage. 

Growing Black Cherry Tomatoes

Plant it in a sunny spot, since it thrives on full sun. This plant can take the heat. I planted it in a pot on my full sun patio that heated up well over 100 F in the middle of the Summer. I can't even imagine how many tomatoes I'd have had if it weren't on the sweltering concrete! 

Space 36 inches apart, since this plant gets bushy. For easy help, read the instructions that came with your plant, usually there's a tag in the pot from the garden center. Plant deep, burying 2/3 of the stem. The stem will grow more roots under the dirt and become even more sturdy and healthy this way. 

Tomatoes need well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. They also love water, but too much water will make them sick (As evidenced by my first plant dying from all the rain.) Make sure soil drains well, but try to keep it consistently moist through the growing season. Moisture is critical to prevent cracked fruits and blossom end rot. Mulch soil to reduce water evaporation, as well. Once the plant gets big and leafy, it helps to shade the dirt and retain some water.

Tomatoes are a warm-weather plant so even just one light frost will damage the plant (28 F to 32 F). Protect newly planted seedlings with a frost blanket.

Common Problems With Black Cherry Tomatoes

Tomato hornworms (big green caterpillars), slugs, pill bugs, rodents. Humid weather can lead to fungal diseases like early blight and late blight. Plants might stop setting fruit when temperatures are below 55˚ F or above 90˚ F, or they slow down production, but when the temperatures go back to decent they'll start producing again. Blossom end rot can also be a problem.

Harvest + Storage of Black Cherry Tomatoes

Perfectly ripe tomatoes will show the deep burgundy color but will still feel firm when gently squeezed. These tomatoes do continue to ripen after being picked, so I like to pick them all at once, and let them ripen in a bowl on my counter. Gently grab and twist until the tomato pulls free from the stem, or use a pair of clippers. They're pretty delicate so if you squeeze too hard they will squish.

Store tomatoes at room temperature indoors, or in a shady place outside. Never refrigerate tomatoes, because temperatures below 55 F cause flavor compounds to break down and the tomatoes just don't taste as good. Nothing beats the fresh flavor of a tomato that's been stored properly. They will also store longer if you allow the stems and caps to remain in place until you’re ready to eat them. For peak flavor and nutrition, use within a week, although the time frame really depends on how ripe fruit is when you pick it. Since I pick mine early, they last for quite a while on my countertop.

Have you grown these? What are your growing tips and/or tricks? Any other cherry tomato varieties you recommend? This is my first one, so I'd love some input. Please share below in the comments. 


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