Cherokee Purple (tomato)

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Cherokee Purple
Cherokee purple is a dusky red with green shoulders when ripe
Cherokee purple is a dusky red with green shoulders when ripe
Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)
Maturity80 days
Plant height9 feet
Fruit weight16 oz
LeafRegular leaf
ColorDusky red, green shoulders
Home-grown Cherokee purple tomatoes
A Cherokee Purple tomato in the first stages of development.

Cherokee Purple is the name of an old variety of tomato that develops a fruit with a deep, dusky-rose color while maintaining a somewhat greenish hue near the stem when mature for eating. The deep crimson interior and clear skin combination give it its distinctive color. It was one of the first of the darker color group of tomatoes sometimes described as "blacks." Southern Exposure Seed Exchange was the first seed company to offer Cherokee Purple, released in limited quantity in 1993. The Cherokee Purple has become a popular heirloom variety.


In 1990 John Green of Sevierville, Tennessee mailed heirloom tomato expert Craig LeHoullier seeds of an unnamed purple tomato. Green said that the tomato had originated with the Cherokees more than 100 years previously. LeHoullier named the tomato "Cherokee Purple" and sent seeds to the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE). Jeff McCormack, the owner of SESE, said that the tomato "tasted fine, but was kind of ugly -- people may not like it." SESE featured the Cherokee Purple in the 1993 seed catalog.[1][2][3] LeHoullier distributed Cherokee Purple seeds to several market growers and one of them, Alex Hitt, who lived in North Carolina, had an immediate success growing and selling the tomato despite its ugly appearance. The tomato was described "as looking like a leg bruise."[4]

In 2014, Cherokee Purple was named one of the top ten tomato heirloom varieties by the Seed Savers Exchange.[5]


Cherokee Purple tomatoes are beefsteak in style. They are also notable for having a dense, juicy texture, with small seed locules irregularly scattered throughout the flesh. The comparatively dark interior color is enhanced by the tendency of the seeds to be surrounded by green gel. In 1995, a skin color mutation of Cherokee Purple arose in Craig LeHoullier's North Carolina garden. It was named Cherokee Chocolate, and the yellow skin gives the variety a brownish mahogany hue. Cherokee Green arose in Craig's garden in 1997 from a planting of Cherokee Chocolate. It is one of several tomatoes whose flesh stays green when it ripens; the skin color is yellow, which provides a guide to indicate when the tomato is ripe and ready for harvest.[6]

The Cherokee Purple tomato is most commonly available in the summer and fall.[7] This tomato is best enjoyed fresh and is often used in BLT sandwiches and salads. It can also be used when making pizza and pasta sauces.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barclay, Eliza (14 August 2013). "How a Seed Saver Discovered One of Our Favorite Tomatoes". NPR. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  2. ^ "Cherokee Purple Tomato". Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  3. ^ LeHoullier, Craig. "A Spectrum of Heirloom Tomatoes". American Horticultural Society.
  4. ^ LeHoullier, Craig (14 April 2017). "How the Cherokee Purple Tomato got its Name". Slow Food Asheville. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  5. ^ Hartwell, Roger. "Top Ten Heirloom Tomatoes". Seed Savers Exchange.
  6. ^ "Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomatoes". Specialty Produce. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  7. ^ Jones, Emily (2023-04-22). "A Guide to 20 Black Tomato Varieties". Retrieved 2023-04-26.