What Are Black Tomatoes?

Black tomatoes are a darker colored variety of tomato and one of the healthiest foods you can eat, with scientifically proven antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. What causes black tomatoes to acquire such a dark color is also what makes them so healthy: a type of antioxidant found in other healthy foods such as blueberries, blackberries, chokeberries, black raspberries and black mulberries. Both heirloom and genetically modified black tomato varieties exist, one healthier than the other.

What is a black tomato?

Black tomatoes are a type of darker-colored tomato, but a tomato nonetheless. Most black tomato varieties do not actually turn black when they become ripe, but rather a darker color that is not the red we’re used to seeing in the botanical fruit. Black tomatoes may be a blue black, a purple black or a blue purple and don’t necessarily have a uniform color. A lot of varieties of black tomato are more of a wine-red or reddish-purple and don’t get darker than that. Despite their name, black tomatoes often have red or red purple flesh.

Black tomatoes good for you

Because of the variation in color between cultivars, black tomatoes are often called according to the color they are perceived to be which may be a very dark purple that appears black in which case they are called ‘black tomatoes’, or a darker reddish purple or medium violet color in which case they are called ‘purple tomatoes’. A lot of times, black tomatoes are also referred to as blue tomatoes, both fruits that are more on the reddish purple side and fruits that are violet to almost black. The nomenclature is inconsistent, especially in familiar language.

What do black tomatoes look like?

Most varieties of black tomato gradually change color as they ripen going from green when unripe to red or red purple or a medium to dark violet or a very dark purple-blue that appears black. The botanical fruit is not always the same color all over and different colors may coexist on the same fruit e.g. violet and green, red-purple and green, a very dark purple aka black and green.

While there are black tomato varieties are entirely black, both peel and flesh, this is rare. Most varieties are actually only partially black: either only the peel but not the flesh, or only parts of the peel, the rest being a purplish red to dark purplish red or reddish brown.

As far as size and shape are concerned, there are quite a few different types of black tomatoes, as you can see in the pictures below – there are regular-size black tomatoes, either round or ribbed like red beefsteak tomatoes, but also black cherry tomatoes. Black tomato seeds typically look the same as regular red tomato seeds and tend to be cream-colored when fresh and a light greenish-gray when dried.

Can you eat black tomatoes?

You can definitely eat black tomatoes, and you can eat them any way you want to: raw, cooked, pickled, made into jam or a spread or salsa or juice or something else. Despite looking so unusual, black tomatoes are nothing more than just a tomato with a different color. They are not poisonous or toxic or otherwise bad for you (and neither are green tomatoes). Only if you are allergic to tomatoes in general should you avoid eating them, and other tomato colors too.

Black tomatoes

What do black tomatoes taste like?

Black tomatoes taste good, like tomatoes, but different from red tomatoes at the same time. The taste of black tomatoes is quite balanced as in both sweet and astringent, with a complex flavor profile owed primarily to the high anthocyanin content of the variety. Black tomatoes are slightly less astringent compared to regular red tomatoes, but they are overall quite flavorful and best enjoyed fresh.

What causes some tomatoes to turn black?

Tomatoes are red, that’s how we know them to be. So where do black tomatoes come from? And what makes them turn this color instead of the red we’re more used to seeing?

Red tomatoes get their color from natural pigments called carotenoids, primarily lycopene. Lycopene is the same pigment that makes red watermelon red inside – find out more about the color of red watermelon.

But black tomatoes get their color from natural pigments called anthocyanins e.g. petunidin, malvidin and delphinidin. Anthocyanins are the same class of pigments that gives black raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and purple raspberries their color. Learn more about the color of blackberries and the color of purple raspberries.

Black tomatoes are still tomatoes, the exact same species as red ones actually. The only difference is they produce a different type of pigment when they become ripe. The change in color is basically written in the genetic material of the botanical fruit and triggered by the ripening process.

What causes black tomatoes that turn red inside?

Not all black tomato varieties are black all over, inside and out (or purple or blue or violet). Actually, both the dark colored peel and the lighter red purple flesh in black tomato varieties come from the same type of anthocyanin antioxidants. The difference is the anthocyanins that get exposed to sunlight, that is, those in the peel, darken, whereas the anthocyanins not exposed to sunlight, that is, those in the flesh or shaded parts of the peel, stay lighter. Despite the difference in color, black tomatoes that are entirely black (or purple or blue or violet) and black tomatoes that turn red inside are the same thing.

Are black tomatoes genetically modified?

Some black tomato varieties are genetically modified while some are not. While tomatoes technically possess the ability to produce a darker color naturally, the genes for the darker color are not usually dominant.

But the darker color has become more commercially desirable in recent years due to the public perception that darker fruits such as black tomatoes are far healthier. So scientists have introduced genes from other plants that naturally have the ability to produce a darker color to create black tomatoes. Black tomatoes that are the product of genetic modification tend to produce a more intense and more even pigmentation.

There are also heirloom varieties of black tomatoes produced by crossing tomatoes that naturally exhibited some degree of darker pigmentation, but these tend to produce more unevenly colored fruits and are not always very dark colored, usually a red-purple at most.

How do you know when black tomatoes are ripe?

Even if you’ve never grown or eaten black tomatoes before, you’ll likely know when they are ripe if you’ve simply had tomatoes before. Black tomatoes are essentially a darker colored variety of tomato, but otherwise the same thing as any other tomato.

When they are ripe, they should be a dark blue or purple, almost black color, or reddish-purple, sometimes even tinged with green, ideally somewhat firm, with soft, juicy, sweet and fragrant flesh, sweet and only slightly astringent. Just like red tomatoes, they need sufficient water and lots of sunlight to develop their best taste.

Are black tomatoes good for you?

Black tomatoes are at least just as good for you as red tomatoes, if not healthier. Eating black tomatoes is good for blood pressure and the cardiovascular system in general, and a source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

More important, black tomatoes are an anticancer food that exhibits free radical scavenging, anti-proliferative, enzyme-activating, anti-angiogenesis, apoptotic and anti-invasiveness activities. They boost the immune system via a good vitamin C content and modulate it with the help of both vitamin C and pigmented anthocyanins.

Black tomatoes have a low glycemic index score and limited effects on blood sugar, making them a good diabetic food. Not just this, but they are low in calories and can help with weight loss, and high in water with tonic effects.

This post was updated on Sunday / August 1st, 2021 at 3:40 PM