Ah, spring, the time when all garden fancier’s thoughts turn to planting. Here in the Great Northwet, the snows are receding, rains are nourishing the soil, and it’s time. Our planting beds, resting under straw all winter, are begging to be turned and filled.
If you’re a lover of great tomatoes, then fact is, you simply must be a grower of great tomatoes. Whether you occupy acres or square feet, there’s always room for your favorites and if, as for many of us space is an issue, tomatoes that bear well in a compact space are best yet. Which brings us back to the love of those little globes of wonder. Enter the Indigo grafted tomato.
First and foremost, one wonders, why grafted? The simple answer is, because it works. Grafting is neither new nor done as a novelty; it’s sound practice with a long history of success. The technique, as applied to these Indigo tomatoes, involves mating the root stock of one variety with the leafy stem of another.
My hands down favorite college horticulture course focused on grafting. That was back in the late ’70s and I hate to admit it, but even though our back yard apple tree is a grafted wonder offering four distinct varieties, I’d not thought much of the technique in terms of tomato plants until these Indigos came along. My Professor at the University of Washington, fondly referred to as Master Nishitani, explained that the Japanese had been successfully experimenting with grafting herbaceous edibles since the early 1900s. Still, grafted veggies been slow to catch on in this country, due predominantly to the supposed greater advantages offered by green revolution dependence on chemistry and standard hybridization techniques. Thankfully, a general return to sound environmental practices has lead naturally back to grafting as well
What grafting provides, in a sustainable and eco-sensitive manner, is the marriage of hearty rootstock to a bearing variety chosen for flavor and high yield. The rootstock variety offers a larger, more vigorous root system bred with greater resistance to fungi, bacteria and parasites; truly a godsend, given many tomato varieties susceptibility to such ills. Customized rootstock furthermore yields plants that can and will thrive in a myriad of environmental conditions, a gift any gardener can appreciate.
Indeed, and so it is with these wonderful little Indigos. Monica and I were blessed with several plants from our dear friends at Log House Plants. We picked them up and admired healthy, happy starts, but apparently nothing out of the ordinary, yet… It was after planting and those tenuous weeks of waiting for things to happen that we first noticed a difference; not just blossoms, but lots and lots of blossoms! As fruit began to form, these compact plants, topping out at about 2 1/2′ here in our little USDA Zone 7b garden, were absolutely loaded. I place purposeful emphasis on the word compact; regardless of the space you dedicate to tomatoes in your garden, these Indigos will provide enviable bounty and variety.
And such fruit! The Indigo varieties are named for that hue, naturally occurring in tomatoes, fully expressed in these little guys. Right away the colors just floored us; perfect little globes of deep purple-black, yellow-gold and seriously rich reds. Any honest lover of tomatoes will admit that color and shape have darn near as much to do with desirability as taste. These things were like candy as they matured, the colors becoming deeper and glossier as the days progressed. Photographing them wasn’t a chore, it was a treat.
Our favorite thus far is the Indigo Rose, a stunning blend that starts out purple-almost-black with brilliant green highlights, and matures into a deep purple-red with stunning crimson flesh. This first true purple tomato also contains anthocyanins, a potent antioxidant found in blueberries, raspberries and cranberries.
The real treat, of course, is the taste. These Indigo varieties are simply amazing. Plucked off the vine and popped into your mouth on a cool, quiet morning, this is the kind of rich, complex taste that forms lasting memories. cooking, preserving and eating these beauties is a joy, and therein lies the only other impetus you should require for growing your own Indigos. Variety is indeed the spice of life; these hardy, high-yield varieties offer the perfect home grown, home cooked solution.
Do yourselves a favor, and look these little guys up by name. Chances are a nursery near you will have them, and if not, you can find an online source to hook you up. If you have any problem finding them let us know and we’ll get you squared away.
So, type in the search terms ‘tomato’ and ‘green tomato’ up there on the little search box to the right; you’ll find lovely recipes featuring these wonderful Indigos, including a tomato and onion tart, chutney, relish, and some ideas on preserving your bounty as well.
Happy planting, harvesting, and cooking!