In our tomato variety reviews we rate and review each variety based on the following criteria:
Size of Fruit vs Productivity
Taste & Meatiness (texture)
Disease and Pest Resistance
So, without fear, let's get started!
# 1 in our tomato series is the Black Russian. This odd coloured tomato might be “different” but never judge a book by it's cover.
The Black Russian is a large indeterminate plant (continues to grow-on kind-of like a vine) with a thick leader and many long branching off-stems; therefore, it will need staking or support. An heirloom variety so it's true-to-type if you wish to keep the seeds for re-growing.
The fruit has a dark brown/blackish coloured skin when ripe with a similar coloured flesh presenting a beautiful dark glazed appearance when cut. Most people comment about the unusual colour of the fruit and some are turned-off by the look, which is a shame.
Size varies on the plant with fruit ranging from 2 – 4 inches across and shape also varies from round to slightly pleated in appearance.
Productivity is excellent with numerous fruit developing in small bunches.
Special Growing Tips and Observations
Soil preparation and planting are no different than any other tomato plant:
Does best in well-draining soil.
Dig-in some compost and manure for extra food.
Throw around and dig-in a few handfuls of dolomite (for extra calcium).
Plant seedlings quite deep up to its first set of leaves (to promote more root growth).
If direct sowing with seed, sow two or three per station, keep soil moist, then thin out to one plant.
Feed young plant with some seaweed solution every few weeks.
Boost feed with some potassium or trace elements at flowering or early fruit set.
Mulch the soil around base of plant.
I have found Black Russian plants to be vigorous growers and reasonably cold tolerant coping easily through a subtropical winter. However, fruit set and growth are slow during the cooler months and does improve dramatically as the weather warms into spring.
I don't over prune this tomato variety and find it does best left to sprawl over a trellis unchecked except for the trimming of dead or diseased branches and leaves.
Sow or plant seedlings so the plant reaches adulthood 60-90 days during spring or early summer as it doesn't cope well at all with the summer heat. Almost impossible to grow during subtropical summer as the plant easily falls victim to general fungal diseases.
The fruit seems to be less susceptible to fruit fly strike; although, I am yet to establish if it's due to a physical characteristic (like colour) making it unappealing to the fly or early ripening before the fruit fly season (I expect the latter).
Taste and Best Uses
Tasting this tomato is a pleasant experience beginning with a very mild aroma (nowhere near as striking as it looks) and a semi-sweet indifferent taste. For those who are slightly tentative due to the appearance after tasting they are usually quite surprised about how “normal” it tastes.
Best used on sandwiches and in salads. Also, is “meaty” enough to be cut in quarter chunks and semi-dried for a dark coloured dried treat on pizzas etc.
Final Say and Score
The Black Russian tomato ranks highly on the X-factor scale due to it's unique colour and performance in cool conditions. As a heirloom variety extra points must be awarded due to ease of seed collection directly from the tomato without having to re-buy.
I like this variety of tomato because of its unusual colour, excellent productivity, and vigour.
Size of Fruit vs Productivity – 8
Taste & Meatiness (texture) – 6
Disease and Pest Resistance – 6
Growth – 8
X-Factor – 9
Full score is 37 points with an overall average total of a 7.4 – SSM Tomato Rating.
And there you have it for the Black Russian tomato, the first to be showcased in our tomato series, and definitely one worth trying for the home gardener and tomato lover.
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Look, and see the Earth through her eyes
Mark Valencia – Editor SSM