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.