Cherokee Purple Tomato

Cherokee Purple tomatoes are named for the Cherokee Indian tribe who developed this variety over 100 years ago. It has a smokey, sweet flavor that is still enjoyed to this day. Because it is an Heirloom tomato, you can save the seeds for growing more plants, knowing they will come true to type.

Cherokee Purple tomatoes are about 10-12 ounces in size, which means a slice will cover your sandwich. The flesh is a pinkish-purple marbled with red. Vines are indeterminate so will require staking or support of some type.

Tomatoes of any type require about an inch of water per week. More is required when they are bearing fruit because most of a tomato is water. So, be sure to give them plenty of it on a regular basis. If you are growing your Cherokee Purple tomato in a container, it will need watering more often as containers dry out more from the heat of the sun.

Blossom end rot, which is a rotten spot on the bottom of the tomato, is caused by a lack of calcium. This can happen if there is simply too little calcium in the soil or it can happen in periods of heavy rain which dilutes the calcium. It is easily cured (or prevented) by adding dolomite to the soil. If dolomite is not available, use garden lime. Another way to provide calcium is to pulverize egg shells in your blender and then pour the liquid around the tomato plants.

Tomato hornworms and their very close relatives, the tobacco hornworm are a light greenish color and can grow to several inches long. Because of their color, they are sometimes hard to see until you find bare spots on your tomato vines. They have voracious appetites and can strip a plant overnight. Both varieties of hornworm will happily eat your tomato plants or any tobacco plants if they are around.

If you really want to know which hornworm you have, check out the red spots or stripes and the color of the tail horn. Personally, I don’t care to get up close and personal with them. I’d rather just get rid of them and be done with it.

If you aren’t too squeamish, the easiest cure is to pick them off the plant, drop them onto a hard surface and squish them with your foot. They make a satisfying crunch and they squirt a bright green gel. In fact, you might be able to get the kids to do this chore of picking and squishing hornworms just so they can see the stuff squirt out the ends!

The preferred organic method of controlling hornworms and all other caterpillars in your garden is to spray the plants with BT (Bacillis Thuringiensis). This will control cabbage worms and a variety of other caterpillars. Or, you can try to attract a tiny wasp, Braconidae, which will parasitize the caterpillars and kill them.

You can greatly reduce the hornworm population by simply planting marigolds around your tomato plants.

As with any variety of tomato, plant your Cherokee Purple DEEP. Nip off any leaves on the lower stem so you have a nice tight crown of leaves at the top. Bury your plant so that the crown is just showing above the ground. The reason for this is that the plant will grow roots all along the length of buried stem, which means your Cherokee Purple will be stronger and able to take up more waer and nutrients.