More veg growers are now taking an interest in “black” tomatoes. Their flavour is distinctive and they add to the colour palette of summer salads, but the texture can be poor and the skins can be prone to cracking.
The old heirloom favourite from Russia, ‘Black Cherry’, for example, has a much appreciated flavour but the fruits tend to be mushy and to crack when mature. ‘Black Opal’ (left, click to enlarge) is a new, British bred, black-fruited cherry tomato that is a noticeable improvement.
An indeterminate variety for outside or for the cold greenhouse, the flavour of ‘Black Opal’ is even better than that of ‘Black Cherry’, the texture is noticeably firmer and the plant habit is better too. The colour (click the picture to enlarge) is chocolate red. It has good general disease tolerance including good tolerance of the dreaded late blight.
‘Black Opal’ was developed by Simon Crawford and Mark Rowland of Gourmet Genetics, Simon was responsible for creating the well known ‘Red Alert’ and ‘Tumbler’ tomatoes. He told me: “'Black Opal' has a good flavour but selection was more for the texture of the fruit, more crispy rather than mushy as it is with 'Black Cherry' or 'Chocolate Cherry'.
“It has fruit weighing about 18grams/0.6oz each with about 120-150 fruit per plant over a three month period so the total yield of ‘Black Opal’ will be around 2.3kgs/5.1lbs per plant.”
The flavour is a tempting mix of sweetness and tanginess with a Brix rating (a measure of sweetness) of 9% in a cold greenhouse and similar when grown outside. For comparison, the well known ‘Gardener’s Delight’ has a lower Brix rating of 7%.
You can order young plants of ‘Black Opal’ tomatoes from Suttons or from Dobies.