Cherokee Purple

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Harvest Size: 10 to 12 ounces
  • Days to Harvest: 80 to 90 days
  • Plant Size: 4 to 6 feet
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate

Cherokee Purple tomato comes from Tennessee and is thought to be an heirloom of the Cherokee tribe. It is a consistent winner of taste tests, even when competing with modern hybrids and heirlooms from other parts of the world. The color is a beautiful dark, purplish red. For all of its qualities, it is also big—the kind of tomato that can be used to feed tomato sandwiches to a family of four.

We recommend both hybrid and heirloom tomatoes for your garden because hybrids are generally more productive and disease resistant. Cherokee Purple is not a prolific bearer, so compensate by planting extra if you have the space. In our Alabama test garden, where conditions are ideal and the season is long, we harvested 27 fruits from one plant.

Plant tomatoes from spring (after the last frost) through early summer. If you buy early, you can keep plants on a sunny windowsill until the weather warms. To plant early, protect plants with row cover.

Plant spacing: 36 inches apart in conventional rows, 24 to 30 inches in intensive gardens. Plants per person: 2 to 3.

Secrets to Success »

Plant deeply, so that two-thirds of the plant is buried stem and all; it will sprout roots. This makes the plant more resistant to drought and other problems. Fertilize when planting and during the growing season with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food.

Water regularly. Tomatoes need steady watering to develop to full size and prevent blossom end rot. To keep the soil moist, mix compost into planting holes, and mulch around the plants after the soil warms. Watering with a soaker hose is best to keep leaves dry. Wet leaves encourage disease.

Harvest and Use »

Cherokee Purple fruits will be a pink color for a while, but let them darken on the vine to purplish red for the fullest flavor. Pick vine-ripe tomatoes to slice on a plate, chop in a salad, or enjoy on a sandwich. Use Cherokee Purple to add rich flavor and color in tomato tarts, jams, and sauces. Tomatoes are full of vitamins and nutrients, including cancer-fighting lycopene.

Try These Garden Companions »

  • Sweet basil for tomato-and-basil salad or sandwich.
  • Parsley, rosemary, and oregano for Continental cuisine.
  • Bush Early Girl (determinate) or Early Girl (indeterminate) for early harvest.
  • Chocolate Cherry, Husky Cherry Red, Grape, Juliet, Sun Sugar, Super Sweet 100, Yellow Pear, or any cherry tomato that bears all season.
  • German Johnson, German Queen, Red or Pink Brandywine for other big heirlooms tomatoes.
  • Homestead, Celebrity, Mountain Pride, Rutgers, Solar Fire, and Roma (determinate types) for a big harvest in a short time.
  • Roma for cooking and thick sauces.
  • BHN 602 VF123SW, Amelia VF123NStSW, or Talladega VFFTSWSt for disease resistance in the Deep South where spotted wilt virus is troublesome.

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