Posted on 10 October 2008 by

Black Prince Tomatoes

By Kira Hamman

There has been considerable buzz this summer (admittedly in some pretty esoteric circles) about the Black Prince tomato, a Siberian heirloom originally from Irkutsk.

Since I’m in favor of anything that allows me to use the word “Irkutsk” in casual conversation, I decided to look into it.

A number of garden bloggers, including RKayne at GardenGuides and Kathy at Skippy’s Vegetable Garden, not to mention Tomato Casual’s own Michael Nolan, have raved about Black Prince.

They all say its striking beauty and intense flavor make it a favorite. Well, that’s enough to pique my interest.

Plenty of chefs are smitten with Black Prince too. Alexandra at Alexandra’s Kitchen talks about the delicious simple summer salad she made with Black Princes from the farmers’ market. And at the San Francisco restaurant Aqua, they do something with it that you’ll have to see for yourself, as I am at a loss for how to describe it. OK, now I’m really paying attention.

And then there are the more surprising appearances. Black tomato (not Black Prince, but close enough) shows up as the name of a band on MySpace, an online travel company, and a restaurant in Ottowa. And at The Red Shoes, you can buy an original watercolor featuring Black Prince tomatoes.

All in all, I’m thinking I’ll have to try this one next year. Sounds like it could give my beloved Cherokee Purples a run for their money.

23 Responses to “Black Prince Tomatoes”

  1. Shibaguyz Says:

    We have to agree with the other raves you have heard about this wonderful tomato. Because of its place of origin, the Black Prince was touted as having the ability to thrive in cooler temperatures. Not sure what our Seattle summer held in store for us, we put in one seedling to test it out. WOW!! The plant grew beyond it’s four foot tall cage and ran up and over our small cherry tree it appeared to be using as a support.

    What we yielded were clusters of 8-12 beautiful tomatoes. It was amazing. We also planted a Paul Robeson and a Purple Cherokee to see how those dark tomatoes did in our climate and, although we did yield a batch of great tomatoes from each, the Black Prince was the winner in yield and flavor hands down.

    On a culinary note, they sauce up into the most beautiful, rich, smooth tasting sauce we’ve ever made. We have canned about a dozen quarts of our “Black Beauty” sauce (all three black/purple varieties cooked together) and now we have about 25 pounds of the Black Prince alone to sauce and can from our final harvest.

    We are so impressed with this new-found wonder we have already set aside an entire bed for four plants next year. YUMM!!

  2. Kira Says:

    Well, if Shibaguyz love it, the I’m sold. Sign me up!

  3. Michael nolan Says:

    I love them and was heartbroken when I couldn’t keep the ones I’d seeded early this year after my move.

  4. Joe Phillips Says:

    Grandson and I planted a Black Prince. It is now loaded with tomatoes, my question is when do we pick them??

  5. Michael Nolan Says:

    Joe, I have always used the touch technique myself. You know what a ripe tomato is supposed to feel like, so just give ’em a little squeeze and you’ll know.

  6. Annapet Says:

    Thanks for the ‘Black Prince’ write up. I realize it was written last year. If you grew BP this year, in your opinion, how did it compare to ‘Cherokee Purple’? I’m growing BP in my garden now, and had a few ripe fruits. To me however, the flavor is a bit disappointing compared to ‘Black Krim.’ Of course, taste is very subjective, but I would love to read what you think. Thank you so much.

  7. Michael Nolan Says:

    Annapet, thanks for your comment. If we’re comparing Black Prince to the Cherokee Purple, I’ll go with CP hands down. And yes, I’m growing both this year 🙂

  8. Annapet Says:

    Thank you. I’m still kicking myself for not growing Cherokee Purple this year. I have Cherokee Chocolate which I also prefer over Black Prince. Is it possible BP is just not performing well in my garden? Even Chocolate Cherry tastes better than my BP.

  9. Michael Nolan Says:

    Tell me about your garden. What zone? What is the soil like? Sunlight? Temperature? Rain?

  10. Annapet Says:

    Sunset Zone 17 without the fog. Mild, wet winters and cool summers with frequent wind. I’m growing 25 tomato varieties this season (mostly heirloom and op). All container-grown organically. Full sun all day long. Another black tomato, ‘Paul Robeson’ did beautifully here last season. My BP is a lemon? LOL.

  11. Cheryl Says:

    I am in Sacramento, CA and am growing 4 kinds of tomatoes, Celebrity, Better Boy and Warren’s yellow cherry are all doing fantastic. I tried Black Prince for the first time and although the plant is very healthy and has lots of blossoms, I have not had a single tomato even start. What could be the problem? I am using a raised bed, all brand new soil, all the tomato plants are in the exact same soil with the same amendments. Only the Black Prince has not set any fruit. I also have an eggplant that is doing the same thing. Beautiful plant with no fruit. Sacra-tomato is supposed to be the perfect climate for tomatoes after all. Any ideas?

  12. Dinner from our Garden at Rachel: Photo Diary Says:

    […] are lucky enough this year that the tomatoes are coming in! We harvested some of the Black Prince tomatoes today, with cucumbers, lettuce, and cherry tomatoes all from the garden. We’re getting ready […]

  13. Kalar Walters Says:

    I just purchased a Black Prince as my “experiment” this year. I always try at least one new tomato each summer, sometimes two. I was hesitant to try this since it’s a native of Siberia and I’m in central Mississippi. Any knowledge of how they handle intense heat? Maybe if I plant them where they are in the shade during the hottest part of the day? Anybody know anything about how it handles intense heat? Thanks very much for any info you can provide.

  14. Chicken Satay & Grilled Broccolini with Thai Glaze « Saucy & Bossy Says:

    […] and, most importantly, planting some vegetables in the garden. We picked up our pre-ordered tomato (Black Prince and San Marzano) and chile (Poblano and Jalapeño) plants from Verrill Farm in Concord yesterday, […]

  15. Gardening magic | Juggling Act Says:

    […] buds: Mortgage Lifter, large, sweet and pinkish, described as the perfect tomato-sandwich tomato; Black Prince, medium-sized, deep garnet, with an intense flavor; Dixie Golden Giant, large, lemon-yellow, with a […]

  16. Michele Says:

    I live in Ohio-we’re having quite a hot and humid summer here! I tried the black prince this year in my garden. It’s not crack resistant–they are spliting left and right–and sorry to say-I had to pitch many away! My other varieties are doing very well thou!

  17. Anabel Says:

    I grew Black Prince in the early through the late 90’s when I first heard of it. I preferred it over CP or just about any other, except Odoriko. My family at first said it was too ugly to eat and then my grandmother would beg me to bring over more of those ugly tomatoes. I moved and now am container gardening. I grew BP last and this year and have had considerable trouble with cracking. I do not know if the stock changed along the line, the watering in the self-watering containers creates a problem, or yet something else but this isn’t what I remember at all. The flavor is still excellent, but not as transcendent as the first stock I had.

  18. stickangel Says:

    I’m also in Ohio and grew these this year. They only get direct morning sun and have been doing fairly well, though I’ve had some cracking when they are near ripe. I think the trick is to give them good support, good organic fertilizer and plenty of shade and they will do just fine. So far this has been my favorite snack tomato… One of these ripe guys on a piece of toast, mayo, salt, pepper, and a couple of basil leaves on the top and I’m in heaven.

  19. Lucas Says:

    I’ve never tried Black Prince tomatoes (eating or growing) until 2 weeks ago. I am growing a variety of tomato types and this is the only one that hasn’t seemed to grow at all. My celebrities have more than doubled in size (no fruit still).
    The black prince is the same size it was when I planted it. It looks healthy and green, none of the leaves are wilted.
    Does this variety tend to grow slower than others?
    Could it have anything to do with the fact that I am using a Topsy-Turvy to grow the black prince tomatoes and the others are all in pots?

  20. Alex Says:

    My neighbors and I grow Black Prince at sea-level on Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington. A friend gave me some “mystery seeds” a long time ago, and it took me a few years to bother identifying the variety. During that time, we all just referred to them as “Tomacco” as an homage to the Simpson’s episode. They always produce abundantly (like no other variety in our gardens,) even during the crummiest Pacific Northwest summers imaginable! Sweet, juicy, burnt sienna/dark green at maturity, these gems are delicious both fresh and cooked. I collect the seeds each year and won’t be without them!

  21. gail Says:



  22. perchprism Says:

    Am growing Black Prince this year in central North Carolina, in a fairly shady area along with Park’s Whopper and German Johnson. One of the BP plants is seven feet tall now. I keep them in hog wire cages. Folks around here are a bit leery about Black Prince because, let’s face it, they lack eye appeal. Brownish green on the outside, and a rotten look to the slice. My wife won’t touch ’em, and she’s born and bred Johnston County, NC. Oh well. I find them fairly toothsome myself. I’ve had a few go bad on the vine, but all-in-all, they produce well.

  23. The Rachel Papers Tomato tasting Says:

    […] were delicious, and I was more than okay with lining up to try each one. My favorites were the Black Prince tomato (which tasted rather egg-planty) and the Sun Gold cherry tomato. Blame last week’s article in […]

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