I grow a few heirloom tomatoes every year. I consider them fun and in the process I've had some favorites. The Cherokee Purple (Solanum lycopersicum) heirloom tomato tops my list of favorites.
When growing heirloom tomatoes be prepared to "think out of the box" on flavor, looks, texture, seeds, disease resistance and production.
The flavor of a Cherokee Purple is a very VERY sweet old fashioned tomato taste. One of the best for serving fresh.
This plant doesn't have a huge production of tomatoes - plant with other varieties if you plan to use with lots of cooking or preserving.
As you would expect from a tomato named "purple", don't expect to see bright tomato red. As the photo shows, it's green and purple and dark red when ripe.
This tomato has very dense insides, translating into good sauce and juice. When cooked, it will tint the product a darker shade of red.
It takes a lot of moisture to do well in the garden. During drought years, you will need to water deep twice a week for high production and to stop the skin from splitting. Insects love a tomato that has a split. During perfect summer weather, they are relatively maintenence free. Otherwise, keep watch for the usual tomato problems and fix early.
As this Burpee catalog photo shows, the tomatoes are large, dense and heavy (about 12 oz.). The plant should be supported on something sturdy. They take about 80 days from the time the plants are in the ground to production.
If you get plants in the garden early, they may grow over six foot. Keep that in mind when your placing in your garden plot. There are catalogs featuring organic tomato seeds if you care to raise your own.
Cherokee Purple was the first "black" tomato. It is considered beefsteak style. Craig LeHoullier claimed the cultivar is over a century old and originated with the Cherokee Native Americans. It has been included in the Seed Savers Exchange as a heirloom.
A gentleman developed his own web page for the tomato: www.cherokeepurple.com
I have to admire a person who is so excited about a single variety of tomato, he has dedicated it with photos of every stage. I tend to do this with my daylilies, so, I can understand that kind of passion.
If you're a tomato lover - one that anxiously awaits your first tomato sandwich, one that eats cherry tomatoes straight from the plant, one that always plants more than a sane person can consume - aren't you almost tasting that fresh tomato as you read this article??? Soon - very soon!