No store-bought tomato will beat home grown and freshly picked ones from your garden. And who doesn’t enjoy the fruits of their efforts. Tomato plants are a good addition to any vegetable garden, especially because most of us use them every day. If you are looking to grow tomatoes in your garden, black cherry tomatoes might be what you need. Their ease of growth and productivity are traits that any gardener will appreciate.
The colour of a Black cherry tomato is an indicator of the fruit’s stage of maturity. At its first sign of ripeness, the tomato will have a signature mahogany-brown colouring with green shoulders, and it will be firm to the touch, with a blend of sweet and tart flavours. As it ripens, the green deepens to brown, the flesh becomes slightly tender, and the flavour grows. At the peak of their maturity, Black cherry tomatoes are low in acidity, and they develop a smoky and sweet flavour. The Black cherry tomato plant produces large clusters of the 2.5cm round tomatoes on vigorous, tall, indeterminate plants that are easy to grow, as they are disease resistant and can be grown in the greenhouse or outdoors in a sunny spot.
Black cherry tomatoes are preferred for eating fresh, on their own or in a salad, though they also lend themselves to being flash grilled or roasted. Black cherry tomatoes can easily replace common red tomatoes in pizza and salsa recipes, and they also work nicely in sauces and soups. They pair well with soft, young cheeses, such as chevre and burrata, as well as aged cheeses like pecorino and parmesan.
Other complimentary pairings include citrus, melons, eggplant, mushrooms, mild and hot chilies, poultry, pork, seafood, vinaigrettes, aged balsamic vinegar, herbs, such as basil and cilantro, and cream-based sauces, such as béchamel.
Like all varieties, store Black cherry tomatoes away from direct sunlight at room temperature until ripe and ready to use, after which refrigeration can slow the process of decay and prevent them from ripening further.
Cherry tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. They also contain vitamin A and vitamin C, making them a good snack for maintaining eye health and boosting your immune system. Other significant contents for supporting good health include fibre, iron, and vitamin B-6. Although they are small, the bite-size black cherry tomatoes are indeterminate plants.
Their size might be deceiving, so they need tall and sturdy cages to support them to maturity.
You can start growing black cherry tomato seedlings indoors or outdoors. But to be on the safe side, it is better to start them indoors. More so when the forecast shows a likelihood of frost. Allow the seedlings to germinate and grow for around 6 to 8 weeks as you wait for favourable weather. Then, transfer them outdoors after the last frost, once the temperature is reliable. A black cherry tomato plant will do best in temperatures between 13 and 35C
Once you are ready to transplant, find a spot with full sun as they can withstand the heat. For you to harvest fruits bursting with flavour, ensure they get 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day in nutrient-rich soil.
The three primary nutrients your plants need are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Space your plants approximately 1 metre apart. When planting, pinch and remove the lower leaves to allow you to set about two-thirds of the plant underground.
As mentioned before, the small size of the black cherry tomato fruit can be deceiving. Their plants grow to a height of 1.5 to 2.5 metres feet at maturity. For this reason, you need a proper support system to hold the vines up as they grow. The reasons for supporting your plant as it grows are:
Keeping plants and fruits off the ground, which prevents fruit rot or sunburn.
Making it easy to spray, dust, and care for them.
Ensuring the fruits get the full sun, helping them acquire a rich flavour.
Making harvesting easier as a supported plant is easier to navigate.
There are two common methods of supporting tomato plants as they grow – caging and staking.
Caging is an easier option. With this type of support system, the cages are made from the wire used to reinforce concrete.
Black cherries tomatoes grow really tall so the cages will need to be at least 1.5 metres high. The good news is that you can buy cages from most gardening stores.
Caged plants should be set 1 metre apart and a cage placed over each.
For protection from wind and cold, use plastic wrap around the bottom of the cage. Approximately 0.5metres inches from the ground will be enough to offer the required protection. Adding black plastic mulch to your tomato garden will offer additional protection and help them bloom early.
For caged tomatoes, prune them up to the fifth main fruiting branch. Pruning reduces competition between the vegetative and fruiting parts. Thus, it ensures you have bigger and better fruits earlier. As with most farming methods, caging has a downside – tomatoes don’t ripen as early as they do when staked. Still, caging prevents the majority of these delicious tomatoes from cracking or burning.
Staking calls for the use of wooden or metal stakes measuring between 2 metres in length. While you need wooden stakes about 2.5cm thick, you can use thinner metal stakes as they are stronger. If you decide to use wooden stakes, make sure the wood is not treated with chemicals.
Metal stakes are the best option (rebar rods are an excellent start) if you want a long-lasting solution.
Should you choose to stake your cherry tomato black plants, set them 60cm apart. Next to each plant and about 10cm from the base, drive a stake through the ground until it’s firm. Because they keep growing, you’ll need to regularly prune them to keep their growth in control. Otherwise, they will grow too bushy, weigh down the plant from the stakes, and produce less fruit.
Extreme moisture levels prevent plants from absorbing enough calcium from the soil. When this happens, fruits start rotting from the bottom up.
Other triggers of this condition include soil with high acidity or too much nitrogen. To prevent blossom end rot, test your soil pH and nitrogen levels. A simple preventative measure is to mulch your plant to help the soil retain enough moisture
Flower drop occurs when blossoms fall off the plant without the fruits developing. Which is why this condition is also known as blossom drop. One of the biggest causes of blossom drop is a change in temperature.
When night temperatures go lower than 13 or higher than 30 C, plants lose their flowers.
Insects, water deprivation, lack of pollination, and lack of or too much nitrogen also cause blossom drop.
Obviously, you can’t change the weather. What you can do is strengthen your plant by adding fertilizer or organic pesticides such as neem oil. You can also plant milkweed and cosmos to draw pollinators.
Method: Direct or Seedling Trays
Planting Depth: 5mm
Germination: 5 to 10 days at 21-27ºC
Life Cycle: Annual
Row Spacing: 60-70cm
Plant Spacing: 50cm
Position: Full sun
Days to maturity/flowering: 80 days
Other: Plants need staking. Prune plants to two main stems. Keep well-watered. Pick when mature to encourage more fruit. To reduce the risk of disease do not water overhead. Rotate crops: do not plant in the same position two years in a row.