A Great Black Tomato

The Carbon tomato, reports the Tomato Growers catalog, is among the darkest of the “black” tomatoes. Really? The tomatoes I’d just picked were certainly ripe, but their skins were an unappealing greenish pink. I preferred the greenish copper of Black Prince or the greenish purple of Black Cherry.

Then I cut a Carbon tomato in half, and gasped at the sight of its deep-red flesh. This was the dark color noted in the catalog. Carbon is a misnomer, though; Blood would be a better fit.

But it’s the taste of a tomato, not its color, that matters most. And I couldn’t remember tasting another tomato variety with such smooth flesh and such a perfect sweet-tart flavor. I ate the whole big fruit and starting cutting up another. And then I paused.

It’s hard to know how to behave in the presence of a tomato like this. I wanted to devour it, entirely and immediately, but I also longed to somehow preserve its beauty for eternity, or at least long enough to show all my friends. If only some artist could capture this splendor in an oil portrait, or in watercolor. But the painter in the family was far away. So I took a photo instead, but then I thought the picture might look better with one slice less on the plate. I ate a slice, and then another and another and another—sans salt, sans oil, sans basil, because any such adornment would insult this tomato. And then I ate the uncut half in three bites, and I lost my chance to take another picture.

No matter—there were and are more such fruits where that one came from. I’ll keep bringing them in from the garden for another week or two, until the frost or a fall fungal plague hits the plants. Those the family can’t eat immediately I’ll cook into a richly sweet brick-colored purée or sauce.

These mid-season, oblate tomatoes grow big—8 to 12 ounces, says the Tomato Growers catalog, but some of mine weigh almost 2 pounds. They tend to crack a little, but not deeply. I will certainly plant them again. I suggest you try them, too.

About Linda Ziedrich

I grow, cook, preserve, and write about food in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
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11 Responses to A Great Black Tomato

  1. tigress says:

    I love this post Linda! It so makes me want to find the nearest garden tomato and take a bite or two – or three! And of course now I am on the lookout for Carbon tomato seeds!


  2. I have been loving your PIckling and Jam, Jelly books — and came to the internet to ask you a question about preserving pears — I feel so lucky to have found you have a blog as well!


  3. val says:

    Thanks for the tip. I love black tomatoes, but I have had cracking problems with the varieties I have grown.


  4. How often have I wanted to ask my cookbook a clarifying question — living in the age of Inernet definitely has its perks! Thanks for the answer about pears.

    Here’s a question about tomatoes:

    Could I substitute an equal weight of bell peppers and fresh herbs for the 2 lbs. hot/mild peppers in your tomato salsa recipe and substitute lemon for lime juice and cook it down a bit more for a Italian spaghetti sauce in a hot water bath instead of pressure cooked? What if I sautee the peppers and onions first in a little olive oil?


  5. How often have I wished to ask my cookbook a clarifying question . . . . living in the age of Internet definitely has its perks. Thanks for the answer about pears.

    Here’s a question about preserving tomatoes:

    Could I substitute the same weight bell peppers and fresh herbs for the mild/hot peppers in your tomato salsa recipe and lemon for lime juice and still process it in a hot water bath rather than pressure cooking? What if I sautee peppers and onions in olive oil first?



    • Emma, it’s fine to substitute bell peppers for other kinds in salsa, with or without a handful of herbs thrown in, and to use lemon in place of lime juice. Pressure canning wouldn’t be necessary. But I wouldn’t recommend sauteeing the peppers and onions in oil. Theoretically, at least, the oil might keep the acids in the tomato and lemon juices from penetrating the vegetables. You might roast and peel the peppers instead.


  6. thewritinghouse says:

    Um … WOW, those look amazing. I thought I was doing well growing Black Krim for the first time, but those look awesome.


  7. Julia says:

    Toasted sandwiches made of feta cheese and your recipe for eggplant and tomato relish. Yum, yum, yum! I had planned to gift a few of the jars, but have now decided I’ll be stingy and keep them all to myself.


  8. mike conner says:

    Here is GA, they look like yours, almost pink instead of black, However the taste is my favorite


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