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Garden Journal

Indigo Rose tomatoes keep growing all season

By Paul Barbano | May 21, 2014

Jeans got their name from the French word for Genoa, Italy, because jeans were made of cloth from Genoa. Blue jeans got their blue from the dye plant indigo. And indigo was simply Greek for “blue dye from India.” And all of this blue dye can give you the blues, but for the gardener, blue is good. Blue foods typically are high in anthocyanins, and anthocyanins have been linked to cancer prevention by combating free radical activity in the body. They may help fight chronic inflammation, which is linked to everything from heart disease and arthritis to Alzheimer’s disease, because anthocyanins increase blood sugar metabolism and help control blood sugar levels.

Anthocyanins have been linked to allergy relief, improved vision, weight loss, heart health and attacks by unicorns. OK, not everything, but as a naturally occurring chemical in dark fruits such as blueberries, anothocyanins seem to be a good thing.

Now there is a tomato specially bred by Dr. Jim Myers at Oregon State University. He used wild tomatoes from Peru and the Galapagos Islands to breed a dark purple tomato called Indigo Rose.

Indigo Rose (Lycopersicon esculentum) produces small saladette tomatoes just one to two ounces big, which turn a deep purple when exposed to sunlight.

The trick is to let the tomatoes ripen fully. The area away from the sun will ripen from green to dark red.

These charming small tomatoes have a flavor similar to plums or fruit. They grow on compact indeterminate plants. Indeterminate tomato plants keep growing all season, so you will get crops right up until frost.

The strong plants are resistant to blight and fungal diseases. Indigo Rose tomatoes are a natural for salads, snacking and even crushed into a stunning tomato sauce.

Grow Indigo Rose tomatoes in a sunny spot in the garden. They need at least eight hours of sun to produce well. Tomatoes prefer a soil pH close to 6.0 to 6.8.

Since pH 7.0 is neutral, tomatoes, like most garden plants, prefer just lightly acidic soil. Avoid planting tomatoes in the same spot that you have grown any member of the tomato family, such as peppers, potatoes or eggplant.

Dig the soil down six to eight inches deep. Add extra organic matter like compost. A plastic mulch will heat up the soil and keep down weeds.

You can sow tomato seeds directly in the garden, but for quicker results, most gardeners set out transplants. Seeds are available from High Mowing Seeds (76 Quarry Road, Wolcott, VT 05680; online at www.highmowingseeds.com), Johnny’s Seeds (877-564-6697; online at www.johnnyseeds.com), or Totally Tomatoes (334 W. Stroud St., Randolph, WI 53956; 800-345-5977).

Ask for Indigo Rose tomato plants by name at local nurseries and garden centers. Or you can order from mail-order nurseries.

White Flower Farm even has Indigo Rose tomatoes that are grafted onto disease-resistant rootstock.

Grow some dark purple Indigo Rose tomatoes for their healthy dose of anthocyanins or just for their stunning color. Indigo Rose could be the blue chip investment your garden needs. They are a blueprint for the perfect blue vegetable to go with blue jeans.

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