A few years ago, I reported on the new ‘Indigo Rose’ tomato being developed at OSU by vegetable development specialist, Dr. Jim Myers. At the time, he was soliciting names for his purple tomatoes, which looked much purpler at the time in controlled conditions. Then unnamed, the tomato captivated visitors interested in the process of hybridization and Jim’s claims of a gorgeous aubergine color and some anecdotal and research-supported health claims. It’s now completing its first year on the market.
Unfortunately, the marketing for taste still hasn’t caught up to the marketing for color and health buzzword of the day. Back then, Jim didn’t have a good answer for the single pressing question asked by several people at the demo, and I’m sure thousands of people since then. He still didn’t when my husband asked him last weekend at the Lane County Farmers Market:
What does it taste like?
His response: it tastes like a tomato.
He was absolutely right: it tastes like a tomato. There’s nothing particularly distinguished about the taste, but it’s not bad, either. It just wasn’t bred for taste, and I think that’s a shame.
‘Indigo Rose’ doesn’t have the acidic zing and sweetness of the “black” varieties like ‘Black Krim’ or ‘Cherokee Purple,’ which turn a greenish brown color. The ‘Indigo Rose’ isn’t as dull as a supermarket tomato, but a regular beefsteak in the heat of summer beats the pants off it for flavor. The size is great — it is a bit bigger than your average large cherry tomato, but smaller than a plum. I think they call them “salad tomatoes” in the biz.
Ah, it can’t be denied that you sure are pretty, ‘Indigo Rose’. The ones I’ve seen in the farmers’ market (mine aren’t ready yet) are not purple but a mix of red and aubergine in color, like the ones depicted above. The chemical reaction with anthocyanins that causes the purpling is cool; it’s rather like those sun prints one makes in childhood with photosynthetic paper. If the tomato is shaded, it develops a purple color; if not, it develops red. The tomato in front, for example, has little stripes that I imagine were caused by the calyx. It looks great in a mixed tomato salad because of its unusual coloration. Is this enough, though?
Have you grown or tasted this tomato? A discussion has begun on my Facebook wall (you need to request to be “friends” but I don’t turn anyone down except that chick who was trying to link me to her porn site). Folks mention the tough skin, which could be beneficial in a stuffed tomato recipe. What do you think?