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Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomatoes

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 25 May 2012 at 10:29
Here is a picture of a Cherokee Purple and some information from Wikipediai:

Quote Cherokee-Purple is the name of a cultivar of tomato unusual for the deep purple/red hue of its fruit. It was one of the first of the "black" color group of tomatoes. It is also unusual in being extremely popular for the sake of its flavor, instead of only its unusual color. Cherokee Purple tomatoes are beefsteak in style, with green "shoulders" across the top. 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.

This cultivar originated with Craig LeHoullier, who claimed it was a century-old cultivar originating with the Cherokee people. In 1990, while living in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Craig received unsolicited in the mail, from John Green of Sevierville, Tennessee, a brief note and a small packet of seeds. The note indicated that John wanted to share this unnamed tomato with Craig, and that it was a purple tomato that the Cherokee Indians gave to his neighbors 100 years ago. Upon growing the seeds and observing the fruit, Craig was surprised and delighted to find that the fruit was remarkably close to being a true purple in color (pink tomatoes were often referred to as purple in horticultural literature, so the color of the tomato was quite a surprise). The tomato was named in line with the note that accompanied the seeds, and a sample of seeds sent that winter to Jeff McCormack, founder of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, as well as listed in the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) Yearbook 1991 edition. A few years later, Craig also sent it to Rob Johnston, founder of “Johnnys Selected Seeds” Both seed companies elected to multiply the seed and carry the variety in their seed catalogs. Craig sent out many seed samples to SSE members over the next few years. Through these transactions, as well as the availability via the two seed companies, Cherokee Purple has become a very popular, widely grown and well regarded variety. Craig now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Cherokee Purple remains one of his favorite varieties in a tomato collection that numbers well over 1500 varieties.

Here is some more great information on these tomatoes from John Rivera:
 
Quote Cherokee-Purples grow fairly big; they are pretty in an gnarly, rough kind of way, definitely not your hybridized, pampered tasteless tomato that's picture perfect. They have a wonderfully rich and deep tomatoey flavor, much more intense than a regular garden tomato. They have lots of "meat" on them and make great slices for sandwiches and burgers. They are also delicious when simply sliced up with a sprinkle of salt.
 
This year I planted one of these great tomato plants - hopefully it will do well!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 May 2012 at 05:03
Ron, Cherokee Purple may be the world's second ugliest tomato. But there's no question about its great flavor. It consistently scores #1 or #2 in taste contests.
 
I know Craig Lehoulier well, and he's always regretted giving it that name. It doesn't really fit in the pink/purple group. And it's use by the Cherokee is problematical. Plus it's led to some pretty wild made-up stories by some seed marketing folks.
 
A couple of minor corrections to the wiki write-up:
 
Mr Green never claimed that his neighbor had been growing it for a century. He simply claimed that the Cherokee had been growing it for a hundred years. No documentation has ever been uncovered to that effect.
 
The idea that Cherokee Purple is one of the first of the black tomatoes is ludicrous on the face of it. Black tomatoes---most of which originated in the Crimia---have been around for several hundred years at least. Black Krim---a rather undistinguished tomato, IMO--- was probably the first to reach any sort of popularity in the US, and was later given a great shot in the arm by Martha Stewart, who touted it as her choice of the year when heirlooms were first coming into the mainstream.
 
CPs are not a "true purple color," and Craig never discovered any such thing. In fact, he had named them before he even grew them, strictly from the information given him by Mr. Green.
 
None of which detracts from the simple fact that they are a great tomato, and I hope they do well for you.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Marissa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 June 2012 at 11:36
I love Cherokee Purples. This year, my mom did all my tomato starts for me. I planted two "Cherokee Purples" but now that they have set fruit, they are clearly Brandywines! Oh well, the farm has them growing so I will get my share anyway.

One thing we learned the first year we grew them - don't be deceived by green shoulders. We kept thinking the tomato wasn't ready until it basically started rotting. The one in the picture has just a hint of green, but some of them stay rather green even when fully ripe. Don't let them go bad because you are afraid to see if it's ready!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 June 2012 at 06:13
Very good point, Marissa.
 
In fact, I'd say the above picture is a bad example. Anyone growing Cherokee Purple who waits fro them to become colored like that is going to be disappointed.
 
I'm surprised to hear that you're growing Brandywine. It usually doesn't do well in high heat and humidity. There's one strain folks around here grow that's more tolerant, but it's not a great producer. So I'd be interested in hearing how productive the Brandywine is for you.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Marissa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 June 2012 at 11:16
I hadn't heard specifically that Brandywines weren't very heat tolerant, but I do know as a general rule, the larger the fruit the less they like the heat. We grew them last year, during one of the worst droughts of the past several decades, and the fruit was obviously smaller than normal. But they did "ok" (only the cherry type tomatoes actually did well). I have several fruit that are easily going to be the biggest I've ever personally grown, and one even looked to be blushing this morning! They certainly have fewer fruit on them than the other plants of the same age but they are not known to be a big producer anyway.

So...we'll see! I'll let you know. We do keep track of production of each variety so I can tell if these guys are worth it (flavor obviously counts too!).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 June 2012 at 13:57
Last year wasn't a great tomato year anywhere in the country, Marissa. Conditions just sucked everywhere.
 
Sure, flavor counts. That's why we grow heirlooms in the first place. But for a market grower production is important too. Perhaps more important: the best tasting tomato in the world is useless if you can't grow enough of them to meet demand.
 
Anyway, let's monitor the Brandywines and see what happens. If you're not satisfied I have several other pinks that are more productive and, in one case, actually tastes better.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Boilermaker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 June 2012 at 17:07
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

Very good point, Marissa.
 
In fact, I'd say the above picture is a bad example. Anyone growing Cherokee Purple who waits fro them to become colored like that is going to be disappointed.
 
I'm surprised to hear that you're growing Brandywine. It usually doesn't do well in high heat and humidity. There's one strain folks around here grow that's more tolerant, but it's not a great producer. So I'd be interested in hearing how productive the Brandywine is for you.


My dad used to grow Brandywines in Indiana that were huge and were so good they were almost like eating candy.  I generally don't care for raw tomatoes but even I liked them.  I have tried to grow them here in Georgia without success and as you say it must be the heat.  Anyone who has never tried heirlooms is really missing just how good vegetables and fruits can be and what they were like before being bred only for profit maximization instead of quality and taste.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 June 2012 at 05:06
just how good vegetables and fruits can be and what they were like before being bred only for profit maximization instead of quality and taste.
 
You say that, Andy, as though it were an evil thing. What's wrong with profit? It's the whole point of our economic system. Once you back out all the corruptive government regulations, the entire goal of capitalism is to minimize costs and maximize profits.
 
Although your point about taste is valid, the fact is, the food distribution system is designed to deliver inexpensive food in unlimited quantities. And so far it's done a pretty fair job of accomplishing that goal. Varieties are bred to meet the needs of that system. Unfortunately, flavor (and, often, other characteristics we'd include as part of the quality definition) is not one of the system needs. So when it is present it's because it snuck in as genetic baggage.
 
Despite the present day mantra to the contrary, seems to me if a company can deliver unlimited inexpensive food, and make a profit in the bargain, than this is a good thing for everybody.
 
Heirlooms (and other open pollinated varieties), on the other hand, are grown for only one reason: taste. Everything else is secondary to that. Their problem is that most of them do not easily fit into the food distribution system.
 
Now, one could argue all day about the nature, purpose, and consequences of the food distribution system, and its effects on flavor and health. But I don't know anyone actually involved in that issue who suggests that Monsanto is evil because it makes a profit.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 June 2012 at 05:13
 I have tried to grow them here in Georgia without success
 
See if you can find seed or plants of the Suddeth (sp?) strain. It is more tolerant of our heat and humidity. Even so, it isn't a great producer.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Boilermaker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 June 2012 at 08:04
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

just how good vegetables and fruits can be and what they were like before being bred only for profit maximization instead of quality and taste.
 
You say that, Andy, as though it were an evil thing. What's wrong with profit? It's the whole point of our economic system. Once you back out all the corruptive government regulations, the entire goal of capitalism is to minimize costs and maximize profits.
 


Having earned two business degrees you can be assured  that I am as aware of that fact as is anyone.  I'll also say that after nearly 20 years of working for large corporations such as Hewlett-Packard, Phelps-Dodge, and Kimberly-Clark and now owning my own small business that I am convinced that the prevailing economic system in this country is not capitalism.  It exists, yes, in a small way, but it doesn't prevail.  What prevails is a corrupt corporatist system of huge business in bed with government and big banking.  No, Monsanto isn't evil because it makes a profit, Monsanto is evil because of its business practices.  Having family in the farming industry in Indiana I have seen up close some of Monsanto's practices and the way they bully farmers and abuse power because their large size and enormous influence allows them to get away with it.  Ethics is sorely lacking in large public companies, I have seen it firsthand.  Companies like Monsanto will do more than peddle tasteless gas-ripened tomatoes if they can profit from it, they'd sell you poison if someone thought they could get away with it and they could make a profit.  Lord Acton observed that evil centralizes when he stated that "power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely".  I believe that maxim holds true whether one is referring to business, government, or individuals.   The larger the company or the bigger the government the more manifest is the evil which is inherent in all of us. 
 
Delivering endless quantities of inexpensive food is a laudable goal and you are correct that the effect on public health is debatable.  When I was  kid we grew most of our own vegetables and my mom canned them from the garden, for meat we raised and slaughtered hogs and chickens and bought beef from the local locker plant.    Agribusiness has done a good job of delivering its product but I'm not sure I would call all of it food but rather highly processed food products or something.  I don't know if you have ever worked in livestock confinement houses but I have when younger and there is a moral cost to delivering all that cheap protein that lies outside of the dollar cost and I also believe there is a public health cost associated with all of that hormone and antibiotic laden meat which is borne by the public and not those who are selling it.  When I was a kid 40 years ago obese people were a rarity, now half the country is fat, I will never be convinced it hasn't resulted from the highly processed, unnatural foods everyone eats.  I guess my whole point is that I have spent enough time in business to learn that there is more to the bottom line than just maximizing it, it matters much more HOW you maximize it.

Ok, I'm done with my rant.   


Thanks for the tip on the other strain of tomatoes, I'll try to track some down.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 June 2012 at 16:55
Andy, I'm going to start a new thread on this, just so we don't hijack this one further. Let's call it "the cost of food" just to have a working title.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Boilermaker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 June 2012 at 18:21
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

Andy, I'm going to start a new thread on this, just so we don't hijack this one further. Let's call it "the cost of food" just to have a working title.


Brook,

That's a good idea as the topic will make for an interesting discussion.  I know I probably am coming off like a lefty (I'm not) with my rambling response but I'm still trying to get my arms around big business and its effects on local communities.  Sometimes the older I get I feel as though much of what I was taught in business programs (bachelor's and master's level) at two different universities is turning out to not be so true.
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