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Heirloom Thursday: Cherokee Purple Tomatoes

July 22nd, 2010 by Jeremy Warner
The tomatoes aren't just coming, they're here!  Each week at our farmer's market, more and more tomatoes are making their appearance.  This week, one of the more unusual and tasty varieties was the Cherokee purple.

History: Like most heirlooms, this one has quite an interesting story behind it.  It is a so-called "black" tomato, which refers to the very deep, almost chocolatey, color of its flesh.  One Craig LeHoullier received a mysterious packet of seeds from this tomato, along with a cryptic note, back in 1990.  Obviously such a recent tomato wouldn't make the roster of "heirlooms" but the note reported that the seeds were from a line propagated for 100 years, and supposedly given to the original owner by the Cherokee peoples.  And thus the name, for what has become a very popular heirloom, mostly because it tastes so good!

Worldwide Production: Hard to know, given that so many are backyard specimens.

Growing: These are indeterminate type tomatoes, and ripen in 80 days.  A healthy plant can get to be nine feet tall, and the tomatoes themselves can weigh 16 ounces.

Eating and Processing: There are so many ways to eat a tomato, but these have such good flavor that they should be enjoyed out of hand or in as simple a recipe as possible.

Health Information: Homegrown tomatoes taste so good that health doesn't even seem to factor. Well, it turns out that they are incredibly healthy, with lots of Vitamins A, C, K, and potassium.

Where to Find: Farmer's markets, for one.  If you want to try your hand at growing them in your backyard, try the Seed Saver's Exchange.

Relevant Blog: CherokeePurple.com - a short-lived endeavor, but still!

Bottom Line: These make a mockery out of those croquet balls lurking in the "fresh produce" aisle.

1. Wikipedia
2. Tantalizing Tomatoes!
3. Tomato nutrition facts
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Tags: healthy eating, Nutrition

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