Tomatoes aren’t just round and red. They’re also blue! Not only are blue tomatoes delicious but also the blue skin means that they have the added benefit of naturally-powerful antioxidants. Discover 10 delicious varieties of blue tomatoes.
With 10,000 to 15,000 known varieties of tomatoes worldwide, there is no shortage of new varieties to try. Blue tomatoes aren't new but the varieties today have a great taste as well as healthy benefits. They get their blue color—more of a deep purple-black—from the high levels of anthocyanin found in their skin which is a powerful anti-oxidant.
Anthocyanin is most commonly found in blueberries, blackberries, and red cabbage. It has been found effective in helping the body fight against diabetes, cancer, inflammation, and obesity as well as preventing cardiovascular diseases. In these blue tomatoes, the pigment is darkest where the skin is exposed to the most sunlight and the dark color is only skin-deep so don't peel them; the inside of the tomato is still red.
It can be hard to tell when a blue tomato is ripe. Go by feel instead of looks and pick when the fruit starts to soften. Photo from Baker Creek.
Short History of Blue Tomatoes
So where did these blue tomatoes come from? The first commercially available blue tomato called 'Indigo Rose' was developed at Oregon State University by Dr. Jim Myers. He found wild tomatoes growing in Peru and on the Galapagos Islands that contained high amounts of anthocyanin. After 12 years of breeding and cross-breeding the wild blue species (which were not very tasty) with red tomatoes he was able to create an edible blue tomato with all the added health benefits of anthocyanin.
To further improve the flavor of blue tomatoes, other plant breeders took the idea to another level and crossed 'Indigo Rose' and other blue tomatoes grown at OSU with heirloom varieties known for their great flavor. Now there are lots of blue varieties available in the marketplace.
Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms in California created many varieties of blue tomatoes including these:
Blue on the outside and red in the middle! Photo from Baker Creek.
- 'Blue Beauty', a cross between delicious 'Beauty King' and 'Indigo Rose'. It bears 8 ounce tomatoes with dark blue-black skin and pink meaty flesh in 80 days.
- 'Black Beauty', which is a small beefsteak with even darker skin, has an earthy flavor and bears in 80 days.
- 'Blue Berries' are small, very dark blue, cherry tomatoes that are intensely sweet. They bear in 75 days.
- 'Indigo Cherry Drops' are prolific plants producing huge yields of 1 inch cherries with dark shoulders and red bottoms. A vigorous plant, it bears ripe fruit in 65-70 days.
- 'Indigo Apple' is a medium-sized red tomato with purple-blue streaks that has not only high levels of anthocyanin but also has large amounts of lycopene and vitamin C. Truly a healthy super tomato!
Brad Gates 'Black Beauty' tomato is one of the darkest in the world! Photo from Baker Creek
Tom Wagner of Tater Mater Seeds did some work with blue tomatoes too, giving us these creations:
- 'Blue-Green Zebra' is a cross between his well-known creation 'Green Zebra' and 'Indigo Rose'. It has green flesh with blue and green striped skin and bears in 75-80 days.
- 'Muddy Waters' also has green flesh but has totally dark blue skin.
- 'Blue Streak' is another striped variety with red flesh and blue skin with red stripes. A vigorous, productive plant, in 75-80 days it bears medium-sized tomatoes with great flavor.
- 'Clackamas Blueberry' is a small salad tomato that was voted the best tasting blue tomato in taste tests. It bears in 70-75 days.
- 'Fahrenheit Blues' is a blue cherry producing clusters of 8-16 fruits in 65 days.
- 'Blue Bayou' is large blue cherry weighing 2-4 ounces each, bearing in 70-75 days.
These dark-fruited beauties will attract lots of attention in your garden. Photo from Baker Creek.
'Indigo Rose' and the other blue tomatoes developed by Gates and Wagner are all open-pollinated plants, not hybrids, so you can save the seeds to grow again next year. They have been bred and crossbred enough times to produce stable seed that will come true to its parent unlike F1 hybrids that will not reliably produce fruit that is the same as the parent plant's.
See the Almanac's Tomato Growing Guide for information on how to plant, grow, and harvest tomatoes this year.
Not All Blue Tomatoes Are Created Equal
Other blue tomatoes have been developed by splicing color genes from snapdragons and blueberries onto the tomato's genes. Because of this tinkering at the genetic level, they are considered GMOs—genetically modified organisms—and are banned in most European countries. In these tomatoes, the blue color extends to the flesh, making them truly blue through and through. I have not seen any of these being offered for sale in the US. They are being grown commercially in Canada mainly to make blue tomato juice. This juice is being studied for its high anthocyanin content and is seen by many to be an innovative way to get more of this disease-preventing, anti-inflammatory compound into people's diets in frequently consumed items such as ketchup and pizza sauce.
Have fun seed shopping. Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown in home gardens and they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. Make this year's garden as interesting and colorful as it is productive!
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