Black Russian Tomato, should you grow this unusual tomato?
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Black Russian Tomato
Unlike most varieties of tomato that have attractive bright red skins, the Black Russian tomato has a darkish brown skin that darkens with age as they mature. Don’t let this put you off though, because these tomatoes (although hard to describe the taste) have somewhat of a pleasant sweet acid taste. Many gardeners who have grown them would agree but for the odd few. In Russia it is actually prized for it’s slight smokey flavour as they often describe it.
I believe that they originate from Russia as the name suggests, so they actually grow very well in the UK. They are fast to ripen, and will ripen even when the summer weather has been a little dull and not been at it’s best.
The fruits are of a medium size, slightly flattened, often slightly misshaped and have a dense meaty texture. They are actually an old variety of tomato which is usually grown as a Corden (which means it needs to be grown tall up a large strong cane or similar). That being said, some gardeners have grown it as a bush tomato and left it unpruned. They have reported good success but usually producing slightly smaller tomatoes and usually a little later.
Black Russian Tomato – Image credit: wikimedia.org
Grows to a height of 200cm (79inch) by 50cm (29inch) wide when grown as a cordon
How to grow Black Russian tomatoes
They grow well in a cold greenhouse which means not on heat or outdoors but they do need full sun as with most tomatoes. This means that it ideally needs at least 5 to 7 hours of sun a day.
They are hard to find at local garden centres, so your best option is probably to purchase them online. There aren’t many nurseries that sell them as plug plants so you may be best growing them from seed if needed but there very easy to grow if you follow our simple steps.
Growing Black Russian tomatoes from seed
Seeds should be sown ideally between March and April.
Sowing the seeds is just the same as sowing any other variety of tomato seed. We recommend planting the seeds into jiffy 7 peat plugs (these are small pellets that swell when soaked in water). You place one seed per jiffy plug and the tomato roots will fill the jiffy peat plug.
Alternatively you can grow them in seed trays or large pots, simply use good quality seed compost and spread the seeds out evenly. Next put a thin layer of seed compost that is approximately 2-3ml thick (a very thin layer) alternatively you can use perlite which some people prefer. Water them well with a fine hose and place in a propagator, if you don’t have one, you can use a clear piece of plastic to stop them drying out. It is usually a good idea to put a few small pieces of cane into the seed tray or pot to hold the plastic off the soil and stop it touch young seedlings as they germinate. If you use a propagator with heating underneath they will germinate quicker.
The seeds do not much light to germinate if any, but once they germinate, the seedlings do need moving to a light position straight away. They will grow 2-3 inches in a matter of days and make weedy, weak plants if you do not move them to a bright position. Growing them in a sunny position from the start is probably the best option but please be aware that too much sun can scorch and kill seedlings.
Potting on seedlings
One the seedlings have two sets of leaves and healthy roots, pot them up into small single pots, 9cm pots are ideal. Use a good quality compost for this and mix around 20% perlite with the soil to improve aeration and drainage. Grow on until they are established and harden them off before growing them outside or in a cold greenhouse. Be sure that the last frost has passed, (usually around the end of May) before transplanting them to their final position.
Seeds can be purchased from Thompson & Morgan – Here
Watering and feeding
For a successful crop this is probably the two most important steps. The key here is to keep the soil constantly moist but not wet, you will probably need to water them once a day to achieve this or even twice a day if it is really warm.
Once the flowers appear, start feeding with a high in potash feed, most specialist tomato feeds are designed for this and are high in potash. Feed around once every week or what is recommended on the manufacturers instructions and continue more so when they are producing tomatoes.