The new tomato is released as an open pollinated variety, and as such, seed saved from self-pollinated plants will grow true and not produce hybrids. "It's also important to know that genetic engineering techniques are never used to develop these lines," Myers said. "These tomatoes are not GMO."

Does the new variety taste good?

"People are passionate about their tomatoes," Myers said. "The purple color draws their interest and because it's extraordinary, people tend to expect impressive flavor as well. It does have a good balance of sugars and acids and tastes just like a tomato. Anthocyanins are essentially tasteless."

Myers cautions not to pick the tomato too soon. Indigo Rose must be allowed to ripen fully for complete development of sugars and acids. It's easy to harvest too early because the usual visual clues won't be there.

The tomatoes will be purple where exposed to light, Myers said, and they tend to have a purple crown. They are ripe when their color changes from a shiny blue-purple to a dull purple-brown. The fruit also softens similarly to regular tomatoes, and the bottom of the tomatoes will turn from green to red when ripe.

Anthocyanin produces in the fruit only where exposed to sunlight. If shaded by a leaf or on the base, the purple pigment does not develop. "However, if you pick an Indigo Rose and expose the non-purple area to sunlight, it will turn purple in about a week," Myers said.

"While other fruits, such as blueberries, have higher concentrations of anthocyanin, tomatoes are consumed practically daily in the United States," he said. The tomato is the nation's fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable behind potatoes, lettuce and onions, according to the USDA.

Cherry tomatoes likely will be the next of several new versions in the Indigo anthocyanin series to be bred within the next three years and are expected to have a good flavor.

Seed company catalogs that carry Indigo Rose include Territorial, Nichols,
High Mowing (organic), and Johnnys (organic).

A publication on frequently asked questions about the purple tomato is available online: http://hort.oregonstate.edu/purple_tomato_faq.

 

• Indigo Rose, a truly purple tomato, has been bred at Oregon State University as the first variety to come from OSU's program to breed for high levels of antioxidants in tomatoes. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.) http://www.flickr.com/photos/oregonstateuniversity/6771852699/

 

• Jim Myers shows the interior of the Indigo Rose tomato. Breeding for the antioxidant potential of the purple anthocyanins in the fruit is the most important goal for OSU breeders, led by Myers, professor in the horticulture department. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.) http://www.flickr.com/photos/oregonstateuniversity/6771852285/