Due to the frequent searches on Tomato ‘Indigo Rose’ that find my blog, I offered you a preliminary assessment of this new variety in an entry a few weeks ago, which you can read here. To recap briefly, I noted that seed germination rates for this variety were significantly lower than for other varieties, and that the vines — although seemingly healthy — were not as vigorous as those of other varieties I grow.
The big remaining questions on this variety were:
- How do I know when the fruits are ripe?
- What does the ripe fruit taste like?
Indigo Rose fruits do not ripen to a deep tomato red. I would describe the ripe color as orange-red. Some of them reminded me of the color of ripe persimmons. In the photo above, you can see how the fruit progresses from green with bluish shoulders (top fruits) to a yellow-orange (lowest fully visible fruit) to a deeper orange-red (middle two fruits), all with bluish shoulders.
Here’s another shot of ripe fruits on one of my other plants, so you can see the minor variations:
That small hole in the top biggest fruit was made by a thirsty bird. My region of the North Carolina Piedmont remains in moderate drought, so juicy fruits are becoming irresistible to thirsty wildlife. The birds don’t eat the fruits; they just poke holes — very annoying.
Before I tell you about their flavor, let me show you what they look like when you slice them open. I cut open several ripe fruits and laid them out on a bench so I could photograph them in sunlight.
Note the white pith visible in the central rib area. It extends from the stem point into the fruit. Also note the juice that dribbled out and is darkening the wood beneath them. Here’s another shot that shows the pith more clearly:
In this second photo, you can see how the skin peeled back on the left side of the middle fruit. The skin is very thin. The purple pigment is confined to the skin, so if you want the antioxidant benefits of the pigment that turns them purple, eat the skins. I confess that I had expected the pigment to extend further into the fruit.
Every Indigo Rose fruit that I have cut open looks like these examples. They are pithy and very watery. Most important, they have no discernible tomato flavor. None. At all.
Those of us who grow tomatoes in our home gardens do so for that vine-ripened zing of tomato goodness that comes with a freshly harvested fruit. The five other varieties I’m growing this year are all delivering the tomato pizzazz I’ve come to expect from them.
But the Indigo Rose fruits are so watery and flavorless that we are not eating them, and I refuse to share them with any of my tomato-loving friends for fear that my reputation for providing superior veggie gifts will be forever tainted.
As an experiment, I left one piece of tomato on the bench so that I could observe how wildlife responded to it. Birds and squirrels routinely scour those benches for tidbits, so I was sure someone would try it. No takers. Finally, on the second day it was out there, a few ants were giving it a look. They abandoned the fruit about three hours after they found it.
I’ll admit that growing conditions have not been optimal. During the 9-day stretch of rainless 100+-degree days my garden recently endured, the sun actually damaged the Sweet Treats cherry tomatoes that ripened during that time. They looked as if they’d been boiled from the inside. At first I thought it was some kind of disease, but when the heat backed off, their fruits began ripening normally again.
All of the tomato vines are exhibiting signs of heat and drought stress, and the usual fungal diseases are slowly eating their way up the stems. But this has become normal for my garden in the last decade or so. Despite these challenging conditions, all other tomato varieties are continuing to produce delicious, perfect fruits. In fact, I’m in tomato overload mode at the moment, much to the delight of my friends who share in the bounty. All three pepper varieties are also productive and delicious. I’ll tell you about them another time.
Because all the other varieties are behaving — and tasting — as expected, I’m pretty sure the watery, pithy, tasteless fruits I’m getting off the Indigo Rose vines are intrinsic to the variety. Maybe these tomatoes were never meant to be grown in the southeastern US. If so, seed catalogs should state that clearly. Nothing in the description I read gave any indication that this variety would not perform well in my region.
Bottom line: Despite healthy, if slow-growing, vines and abundant fruit production, Indigo Rose gets an F in my garden.
I am annoyed that I let a picture of an unusual fruit con me into wasting my time on such watery, tasteless tomatoes. Garden space is precious and my well water is almost gone. I will not be gambling on another new variety unless it is backed by more than a pretty picture and a snappy description in a seed catalog.