Last updated on January 26th, 2022
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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 further 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 and acidic taste. Many gardeners who have grown them will agree but for the odd few. In Russia, it is actually prized for its slight smokey flavour, which is how 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 its best.
The fruits are of medium size, slightly flattened, often slightly misshaped and have a dense meaty texture. They are actually an old variety of tomato that is usually grown as a Corden (which means it needs to be grown tall, up a large strong cane or something similar). That being said, some gardeners have grown it as a bush tomato and left it unpruned. They have reported good success but usually find that the tomato plant produces slightly smaller tomatoes and usually a little later.
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, however, they still do require 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 in 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 your best option may be growing them from seed. They’re very easy to grow if you follow our simple steps.
Growing Black Russian tomatoes from seed
Seeds should be sown preferably between March and April.
Sowing the seeds is just the same as sowing any other variety of tomato seeds. 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) or you can use perlite which some gardeners prefer. Water them well with a fine hose and place them in a propagator. If you don’t have one, you can use a clear piece of plastic to stop them from 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 from touching young seedlings as they germinate. If you use a propagator with heating underneath they will germinate quicker.
The seeds do not need much light to germinate if any, but once they germinate, the seedlings do need to move 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
Once 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.
Watering and feeding
For a successful crop, these are probably the two most important steps. The key here is to keep the soil constantly moist but not too 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 manufacturer’s instructions and continue, more so, when they are producing tomatoes.