NHP Purple Tomatoes (A Super Tomato)

Purple Tomatoes

We ordered purple tomato seeds in March of this year after seeing news releases regarding the sales of seeds for a new true purple (both inside and out) bio-engineered cherry tomato that had similar health properties to super fruits such as blueberries and blackberries.  The seeds were available from Norfolk Healthy Produce at $20 for a packet of 10 seeds (plus two extras), and the initial release of 13,000 orders sold out quickly.

We love tomatoes and miss them dearly during the winter.  The tasteless watery versions at the grocery store make us long for summer’s bounty.  And as we get older, we are more conscious of incorporating healthier foods into our diet.  The opportunity to incorporate a healthier, nutritionally-dense tomato containing similar antioxidant properties to those of blueberries into our diet seemed like a win-win.

Creating A Tomato Super Fruit

The tomatoes were designed by using two genes from snapdragon flowers, which turned on the purple pigment (anthocyanin) in the tomatoes.

Tomatoes already have genes to produce anthocyanins (purple pigment), they’re just not turned on.  Some heirloom varieties of tomatoes have purple skin but not purple flesh.   The NHP purple tomatoes contain high levels of anthocyanins, which are the antioxidant compounds (the healthy nutrients) that are traditionally found in eggplants, blueberries, and blackberries.  This causes the tomato to not only have purple skin, but to also have purple flesh.

Based on data submitted to the FDA, it appears that the tomato variety used for this process was the Money Maker tomato.  The Money Maker tomato is one of the oldest heirloom tomato varieties in the world.  Its fruit grows in clusters, each fruit is bright, deep red and smooth and can range from 4 to 6 ounces in weight. The fruits are sweet and the skins are of average thickness for a cherry tomato ( thinner than grape tomatoes).  Like cherry tomatoes, they tend to be juicer rather than meatier which means they have a milder tomato flavor versus that deep flavor that larger, meatier tomatoes normally have.  This variety comes with the bonus of being a reliable, high-yielding producer of a snackable fruits.

Growing Purple Tomatoes

Purple Tomato Seedlings

Purple Tomato Seedlings

Of the 12 seeds we received, 10 germinated and grew quickly enough under grow lights to catch up with the Super Sweet 100 VF variety that germinated a week earlier.  Our purple tomato seedlings exhibited the purple stems like the NHP website indicated the plants would, but the purple stems faded to green as they grew.

We transplanted all our tomatoes to the garden after the last frost in late April, and harvested our first purple tomato by the second week of June.

The purple tomato plants were strong and grew plenty of leaves, which was followed by lots of tomatoes.

We can’t comment yet on their disease resistance.  In our region, mid-July is usually when plants are the most stressed (heat, lack of water) and begin showing signs of disease.  We’ll update this post should the plants start having issues.

Harvesting Purple Tomatoes

Purple Tomatoes On Vine

Purple Tomatoes On Vine

By mid-June, we began experiencing steady temperatures above 80 degrees.  This is when our tomatoes, the purple tomatoes included, began ripening.  Ripe red tomatoes are easy to spot; their outer skin matures into a rich, deep, vibrant red color.  Determining when purple tomatoes are ripe was a little more nuanced.  They ripen from green to brownish-purple, mottled purple, and finally an almost blackish-purple (like blackberries).

A ripe purple tomato is fairly sweet , plump, and juicy; almost as sweet as a Super Sweet 100 cherry tomato and definitely sweet enough to snack on.   The biggest surprise is the bright, deep purple flesh.  It’s beautiful and so much fun to eat, especially when serve it quartered over a salad or minced into garden salsa.

Purple Tomatoes Harvested

Purple Tomatoes Harvested

Want Your Own Purple Tomatoes?

If you missed the initial release of seeds, good news!  NHP indicated that they’ll be selling more orders of seeds in January 2025.

If you can’t wait until next year, NHP has partnered with several grocery chains on the east coast and will begin selling the limited edition ready-to-eat tomatoes as Empress Tomatoes.   Not only will you be able to eat the tomatoes, you can scoop out the seeds and be ready to grow your own without waiting until seeds become available online.

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