Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Grafted Tomato Experiment + A $50 Giveaway!

Earlier this year, Jung Seed Company contacted me about growing one of their grafted tomatoes. I'd first heard about grafted tomatoes just prior to and during the Garden Bloggers Fling in Seattle in 2011. I was somewhat fascinated with the science behind them, but since we are a family of two - only one of which likes raw tomatoes - I didn't give them much thought. We usually only grow two or three plants and two of them are cherry types.

Young 'Indigo Rose' fruits.
But this one that Jung wanted me to grow was different. First of all, it was GORGEOUS and I love growing beautiful edibles and beautiful plants for the sheer joy of looking at them. It went by the name of 'Indigo Rose' and not only was it a beautiful tomato, its reputation preceded it and I wanted it in my garden.

What's so special about 'Indigo Rose'?

Besides being dark purple, almost to the point of being black, 'Indigo Rose' is loaded with all the vitamins that any tomato is, PLUS it's very high in anthocyanins. These are what give it its purple color and anthycyanins are a type of antioxidant thought to fight disease in humans. 'Indigo Rose' has been called the healthiest tomato in the world because of this.

You have to eat the skins to gain the benefits of 'Indigo Rose' that makes them so good for you. The tomatoes were bred at Oregon State University and first introduced to the public in 2012. Breeding first began in the 1960s however, when cultivated tomatoes were crossed with wild tomatoes from Chile and Ecuador's Galapagos Islands.

Some of these wild tomatoes had anthocyanins in their fruit, but cultivated tomatoes had them only in their stems and leaves, which are inedible. The result of many crosses eventually yielded 'Indigo Rose', a 2-inch variety. Sold as both a grafted and seed-grown tomato, its beauty and health benefits are poised to make it a popular selection by home gardeners.

Here's the plan...

I had no intentions of eating this tomato - my husband would take care of that - but I wanted to do an experiment. I'd seen seed grown 'Indigo Rose' at our local Meijer store, and I thought it would be fun to grow the grafted and seed grown varieties of the same tomato side-by-side and do a comparison. Both the grafted tomato and the seed grown plants were nearly identical in size when I planted them.

Grafted version of 'Indigo Rose' on September 11, 2014

Why grafted?

Grafted tomatoes are supposed to have these advantages:

  • better disease resistance
  • increased vigor
  • higher yields

I wanted to see if this would prove to be true in my own garden.

My tomato experiment

I grew both the grafted and the seed-grown 'Indigo Rose' plants in the same location and treated them both exactly the same.  I didn't feed them and only twice did they receive any supplemental watering during the summer. We've had plenty of rain this summer and they didn't really need much extra watering. I pretty much planted them and then let them do whatever they wanted to do without any intervention.

Along with an abundance of rain, we had a cooler than usual summer, and we know that tomatoes prefer warmth. I think that's why these didn't start blooming and producing until later in the summer, but once they started, both of them really went to town. Both plants behaved nearly identical with neither one pulling ahead of the other, until late in the season.

'Indigo Rose' tomatoes are dark purple on the outside, but are
traditional red on the inside.

How do you know when they're ripe?

I began picking ripe fruits a little over a month ago. Deciding when they were ripe was sort of tricky until I knew what to look for. Since they're mostly purple, you really can't go by the color, although the shaded part of them - the bottoms - don't turn purple (because they're shaded from direct sun) so you can check that for the typical tomato red color. The purple parts also start out really shiny, but when they're ripe, the luster dulls. They also soften up a bit and a ripe fruit will come off the stem easily with a slight twist.

The results

Like I said, I couldn't tell much difference between the two plants in the early days of fruit production. But as time went on, the grafted tomato started pulling away from the seed grown one. Both continued to produce (and are still producing), but the number of fruits has differed. The grafted plant has been bearing more tomatoes in the last few weeks than the seed grown.

The grafted plant also looks healthier, with thicker foliage. Both plants were afflicted by late blight a bit, but not to the point of causing any real detriment to the plants. I had no issues with blossom end rot at all, and almost no splitting until just recently.


You can't trust my taste buds to judge a good tomato from a bad one, because I don't like fresh tomatoes. I can't help it - there's a scientific reason for this. But my husband loves them, so it was up to him to let me know how these tasted.

While 'Sungold' is his absolute favorite (even after growing 'Sun Sugar' this year, which is supposed to be an even sweeter variety), he did say he liked 'Indigo Rose'. He thought it tasted like a traditional heirloom tomato, although the flavor wasn't quite as intense. Some of the fruits had an abundance of seeds and some strangely didn't have any, but the seeds were very tiny, so they weren't objectionable.

FINAL VERDICT:  The grafted tomato performed better when it came to length of productivity and number of fruits on the plant. I'll grow it again, for both its beauty and its healthy fruit.


Want to grow a grafted 'Indigo Rose' of your own? Jung Seed Company has graciously provided a $50 gift certificate for me to give away that you can use to buy it! They've got much more than grafted tomatoes though, so you could use this gift certificate for any number of gardening goodies. They're shipping lots of items for fall planting right now.

To enter to win the $50 GC, just leave a comment here, telling me your favorite variety of tomato and why you like it so well. Then enter your information in the Rafflecopter form so that I'll be able to contact you should your entry be chosen as the winner. Do this by midnight EDT, Friday, October 3, 2014, and a winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter, which I will announce on Saturday, October 4th. Best of luck to everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

WINNER! Rafflecopter has chosen Emily Smith as the winner of the $50 gift card to Jung Seed Company. Congratulations, Emily! Thank you to everyone for participating in the giveaway. Stay tuned, because there will be another $50 gift certificate to another nursery soon!

I was provided with a free grafted tomato plant from Jung Seed Company, as well as the $50 Gift Card for giveaway. I purchased the seed grown tomato plant myself for the purposes of this comparison test.

'Indigo Rose' Information Source:


Jenny said...

I assume the question on the rafflecopter is from another giveaway because it's a bout canning?

I would love to try this tomato! I have a hard time choosing a favorite, it's usually whatever is fresh & ripe in my garden. I plant as many heirloom varieties as I can & have never thought I had too many.

Kylee Baumle said...

Jenny ~ Thank you for pointing that out! I've corrected it. Good luck in the giveaway! :-)

ElenaW said...

My favorite large tomato is Moscovich and my favorite small one is Sweet Million. I have not tried the grafted ones but I makes spence that they would help the heirlooms.

kellyr78 said...

I like Cherry Roma tomatoes because they are sweet and good in salads.

Unknown said...

My favorite tomato is 4th of July hybrid because it performs the best in my part shade garden and produces early and the fruit is great tasting

Green Zebra Market Garden said...

My favorite tomato variety has been Prudens Purple for quite a few years. It has flavor similar to Brandywine, but the fruit aren't quite as large (which is actually a plus for me). I'm also a big fan of Black Krim, which has a salty and smokey flavor.

Unknown said...

I love Cherokee Purple Tomatoes. I just think they have a great taste.

Anonymous said...

I like Roma tomatoes because they make great spaghetti sauce and I can use them to make small batches of salsa. I quarter them and sprinkle salt on them as a snack.

I also like Beefsteaks because they are great for slicing for tomato sandwiches or hamburgers.

Thanks for sharing about your experiment with the Indigo Rose variety.

Unknown said...

I love the flame tomato. It is sweet with a blend of acidic red tomato taste and non acidic yellow tomato

Modern Mia said...

I like Cream Sausage tomatoes. They're not as acidic and are just plain fun to put on salads and sandwiches.

Connie said...

A neighbor gave me several Black Krim plants which grew and grew—until I'm sure they have redwood tree in their ancestry. Unfortunately, I don't really care for the tomatoes. Next year I'll try something else and hope for one I like…and a good growing summer, which doesn't seem to happen often in Colorado.

Erin @ The Impatient Gardener said...

I love black tomatoes, particularly Black Krim. It is so meaty and juicy and flavorful. Of course this was the worst tomato year I've ever had so I'd take ANY tomato from the garden this year. I'd really like to try Indigo Rose.

Life Is What It's Called said...

Beefsteak or cherry

Life Is What It's Called said...

Beefsteak or cherry

CommonWeeder said...

This is a really helpful review. I think you answered every question I had about these tomatoes.

Emily Smith said...

I love pear tomatoes. We grow them every year. They are a nice healthy snack or great in salads. Even my kids like them, and they refuse to eat any other kind of tomato.

tami said...

my favorite is black krim

Unknown said...

I love black cherry tomatoes and the yellow pear variety.

allnaturalkatie at gmail dot com

Jan said...

I NEVER have good luck with tomatoes so I am willing to try anything!

Lona said...

I love the looks of these tomatoes and would love to taste one. I just grew my first black sweet pepper this summer and it tasted just like the green peppers. LOL! They are more ornamental looking I think than eating.

Jennie Brooks said...

The best home grown tomato I tried this year was a Cherokee Purple from my friend's garden.

Kylee Baumle said...

Rafflecopter has chosen a winner!

Emily Smith, you're the lucky one! I've sent an email to you.

Thank you, everyone, for participating in the giveaway and stay tuned, because you'll get another chance at another $50 gift certificate for another online nursery very, very soon. (Today!)

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