So, as many of you know, I do not currently have a black cherry tomato plant in my apartment because mine bit the dust two weeks ago. I have starting more seeds, but as of right now my apartment is painfully tomato free. Regardless, here’s everything you didn’t want to know about Black Cherry Tomatoes, and maybe some stuff you did.
Tomatoes are a well-known member of the Solanaceae family. Other members of Solanaceae include peppers, potatoes, eggplant, tobacco, petunias, and more notoriously, deadly nightshade and jimson weed both of which are very toxic. Even tomato leaves contain solanine, an alkaloid, which is toxic in large doses. Tomatoes as a whole are believed to have originated in South America and have been first domesticated in the early 1500s. It wasn’t until mid 1600s that the tomato was introduced to Europe, and even then it was not widely eaten. It finally made it to North America in the 1700s. Tomatoes didn’t start becoming an important part of people’s diets until the 19th century.
The Black Cherry tomato is a well-known variety of the Solanum lycopersicum species. It is believed to have been developed by Vincent Sapp from an heirloom variety and was released in 2003, meaning it is not an heirloom itself. However several sites contradict this, stating that the Black Cherry tomato is a true heirloom. Both claims seem to have equal support, leading me to believe that although Vincent Sapp undoubtedly developed a variety named Black Cherry, there is also an heirloom variety of the same name (If anyone knows and can provide definitive proof supporting or refuting either claim, please share in the comments). The fruits of the Black Cherry tomato are described as having a deep-purple to mahogany-brown color and a sweet, complex flavor when ripe. This variety is a favorite of many gardeners and is typically easy to find at a nursery.
Size: Black Cherry tomatoes are indeterminate tomatoes and can reach 79” (2m) in height. Plants should be placed 2’ (60cm) apart and staked to prevent toppling. Fruit reach around 1” (2.5cm) in diameter.
Water Requirements: Tomatoes are relatively drought tolerant but do need water to produce fruit. Evenly moist soil is the preferred, and it is best to avoid getting water on leaves as it can lead to diseases.
Soil Requirements: Tomatoes in general like soil that is well-drained and high in organic matter. They prefer to grow in a pH range of 6.0 to 6.8 but will tolerate more acidic soil.
Light Requirements: Black Cherry tomatoes, like other tomato varieties do best in full sun (at least 6 hours of sun a day).
Temperature Requirements: Black Cherry tomatoes grow best at temperatures between 50-90°F (10-32°C)
Nutrient Requirements: Black Cherry tomatoes are heavy feeders and like fertilizers that are high in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Too much nitrogen, however, can cause problems with the leaves.
Pruning: “Indeterminate vines should be pruned so that only one or two main stems develop. Pinch off suckers that grow between the main stem and the branches (Suckers are non-flowering shoots that grow in the angle between the main stem and leaf stalks.) Pinch out the growing tips when the plant reaches the top of its support.” – (Taken word for word from The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide by Stephen Albert because I couldn’t have said it any better myself.)
Pests: Common tomato pests include the hornworm, which is controlled by picking larvae off plants, aphids, which can be washed off plants, whiteflies, and the Colorado potato beetle. They also can be susceptible to fungal and bacterial diseases.
Companion Planting: Black Cherry tomatoes are often grown with marigolds to deter whitefly, and basil, chives or mint to deter aphids and other pests. Tomatoes also do well with carrots, celery, lettuce, onions, melons, dill, thyme, peppers, parsley, radishes, spinach, beans, and basil. They should not be planted with plants from the Brassica genus (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc), kale, corn, or potatoes.
Growing Indoors: Black Cherry tomatoes are able to be grown indoors provided that they have access to enough light and a large enough container (at least 24” deep and 18” in diameter).
Harvesting and Use: Black Cherry tomatoes are typically ripe about a week after they turn dark brown/red. They are delicious in salads, tossed with pasta and fresh basil or as a snack.
Heirloom Gardener Summer 2013 – Information about various heirloom tomatoes
Thompson & Morgan – Seed source for the UK
High Mowing Organic Seeds – can purchase seeds from this website. Also provides basic growing info for tomatoes in general.
Smart Gardener plant guide: Black Cherry Tomato – a very good website with general growing information for not only black cherry tomatoes, but many other plants.
Stephen Albert’s The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide – This is my favorite book on gardening I’ve found. It contains well organized concise information about the most common plants found in kitchen gardens. If you’re in need of a gardening book, I highly recommend it. His website Harvest to Table is also excellent.