Tomato 'Black Russian'
Photo by Nociveglia (CC BY 2.0).
Scientific Name: Solanum lycopersicum
Common Name: Tomato 'Black Russian'
Black Russian is a heirloom variety that produces medium sized tomatoes with a rich mahogany to almost black colour. The colour of these heirloom tomatoes will provide a talking point for dinner parties, they make an interesting contrast when mixed with other coloured varieties. The tomatoes produced by this variety are sweet with a rich, complex flavour. Allow Black Russian tomatoes to fully ripen on the vine for best flavour, tomatoes picked early may be tasteless. This variety is ideal diced and added to salads and salsas or sliced and used in sandwiches.
For fast ripening and optimum fruit production plant Black Russian tomatoes in a location that receives full sunlight. Gardeners in warmer climates may instead prefer to grow Black Russian tomatoes in a location that is partially shaded, especially during the hot afternoon sun, to reduce heat stress on plants. Tomatoes require a rich soil to thrive, if your soil is sandy or lacking in organic matter be such to place down a layer of well-rotted cow manure or compost prior to planting. Top dress around plants with a complete organic fertiliser if growth stalls or at the first sign of any nutrient deficiencies. If planting out seedlings you should plant them deeply, down as far as the first seed leaves (cotyledons). Tomatoes have what is known as adventitious roots, meaning that all the hairs along the tomato stem have the potential to form a new root when buried. By planting tomato seedlings deeply they develop a more extensive root system that provides better anchorage against strong winds and is better able to uptake moisture and nutrients from the surrounding soil. Black Russian is an indeterminate climbing heirloom tomato variety, it requires a sturdy trellis at least 1.5m tall to support the weight of the vines which will continuously grow and set fruit. Try to avoid wetting the leaves when watering as this can spread the spores of fungal diseases such as tomato leaf blight. Prune off any lower leaves and branches to reduce splash-back of fungal spores from the soil onto the leaves when watering. Water consistently when tomato fruit are developing or their skins may split. Mulching around tomato plants can also help to reduce splash-back and hold onto soil moisture. If growing Black Russian tomatoes during the warmer months of they year remember to tie fruit-fly exclusion bags over any developing trusses as soon as they are large enough to prevent fruit fly larvae from spoiling the fruit. Fruit set may be poor if insect pollinators are absent, however as tomato flowers are self-fertile you can hand-pollinate them easily by rapidly tapping any open flowers once a week to knock down pollen from the male anthers onto the central female stigma.
When to Sow:
In temperate regions of Australia sow heirloom Black Russian tomato seeds during Spring after any chance of frost has past. In subtropical regions of Australia sow from early Autumn through to early Spring for best results. In tropical regions sow during the dry season, from late Autumn to mid Winter is ideal.
How to Sow:
Heirloom Black Russian tomato seeds should be sown about 6mm deep. To produce seedlings with maximum vitality sow a few seeds in each hole and thin all but the healthiest seedlings a couple of weeks after germination. Sow seeds or plant starts about 60cm apart to allow plenty of room for their root systems to spread out and facilitate airflow between plants which will help reduce fungal diseases.
Heirloom Black Russian tomato seeds are quick to germinate, with seedlings taking between 7 and 13 days to emerge.
Time to Harvest:
Black Russian tomatoes can take awhile to mature, the vines should start producing fruit between 13 and 15 weeks after sowing.