Kenyan farmers might in the near future be able to see a black and white tomato after a British horticultural company put the plants on sale.
Last December, Sutton Seeds announced the breakthrough after created the world’s first black and white tomato plant by blending two rare strains together.
Tomato experts at Sutton Seeds are well known for pioneering plants, having previously created the first ever black strain which they named Indigo Rose.
This was cultivated by blending red and purple tomato plants after a study at the University of Oregon in the US, and contains anthocyanin, an antioxidant or “flavonoid”, which is said to help fight diabetes and obesity.
“This is the darkest they have ever been bred,” explains Alfie Jackson of Suttons Seeds, the Devon-based grower which has secured the rights to sell the plants in UK. “The purple pigmentation is the same as in blueberries. During the growth process it starts out green and when the sun hits the fruit it turns black rather than red.”
Indigo Rose has become a big hit among European and American farmers as the first black tomato.The new jet-black variety are disease resistant and they’re being hailed as the latest superfood, with even greater health benefits than their red relations.
For their latest creation, the green-fingered gardeners blended Indigo Rose with a white-cherry tomato type to produce the ground-breaking black and white plant.
While the black tomatoes have a more savoury taste, the white ones pack a sweet and fruity punch, the growers say.
A spokesman for Sutton Seeds, which is based in Paignton, Devon, said: ‘We have upped the ante by grafting Indigo Rose to a creamy-white cherry variety to produce the first black and white tomato plant.
‘We promise amazement from your friends, neighbours and family, not to mention rather groovy salads and sandwiches.’
Indigo Rose was originally created earlier this year by mixing red and purple tomato strains and is heralded as a ‘superfood’.
The American-bred purple tomatoes contained anthocyanin, an antioxidant said to help fight diabetes and obesity.
Speaking of the black tomatoes, Alfie Jackson, assistant product manager at Suttons Seeds, said: ‘They are not as sweet as normal tomatoes and have a more savoury flavour, and are nice roasted or eaten in salads.
‘There are some dark coloured tomatoes but Indigo Rose is the only real black tomato and is the darkest that has ever been bred.
‘During the growth process it starts out green like all tomatoes and when the sun hits the fruit it turns black rather than red.’
Sue Baic, spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, says there are some benefits to eating brightly-coloured produce – as long as it’s a hue that is lacking in your diet. “It’s the colours in fruit and veg that are most effective in protecting against heart disease and cancer,” she explains, “so this can be hugely useful. Black tomatoes would be good for you if you don’t already eat a lot of blue or purple flavonoids – which are found in red cabbage, plums, black grapes and berries. But it’s vital to eat a rainbow of foods; so don’t just stick to one colour.”
Most importantly, she adds, don’t let the trend towards technicolour put you off your dinner. “If you like the look of black tomatoes, give them a go. If you don’t, I wouldn’t go there.”
Perhaps soon, Kenyan farmers will have a chance to grow these crops.