Black Russian tomatoes do indeed originate from Russia but nothing more is known about their parentage.

This variety is commonly grown in greenhouses but often sold by seed merchants also as an outdoor variety. In areas of the UK which are not subject to very cold weather they will produce a reasonable crop outside but the more protected and warmer the position the better.


BUSH OR CORDON?


Black Russian is grown as a cordon type tomato and produces the best tomatoes when grown that way. However if left to its own devices without any pruning it will still produce fruits but slightly smaller and later in the season. Black Russian however really does need to be pruned correctly to get a decent crop. Sometimes you will see larger than normal and slightly misshapen blossoms on this variety. Our experience has taught us to remove those because the fruits produced from them are also misshapen.

APPEARANCE AND TASTE OF BLACK RUSSIAN

Black Russian tomatoes

The fruits are far darker compared to your average tomato and the skin colour is best described as mahogany. Fruit size is variable but individual tomatoes as heavy as 300g can be expected among other smaller ones. Each plant should produce around 3kg to 4kg of tomatoes. The shape is not regular (overall it can be described as slightly flattened) and you can expect the odd bulge here and there but this just gives the tomatoes character and certainly does not affect their taste. The plants are vigorous growers and need to be pruned regularly to keep them within bounds.

Black Russian tomato cut through

The taste and texture are typical of similar black skinned tomatoes. The orange coloured flesh is very meaty with less juice than many red varieties, good for slicing. Flavour is difficult to describe but most people find it very pleasant. Sweetness with a background of acidity mixed in with a slight smoky flavour. Personally we love it. Black Russian does seem to have variable flavour, taking on some of the characteristics of the soil in which it is grown. Certainly, friends and neighbours will all want to try at least one, I can promise that!

For all the tomato varieties which we have fully reviewed, click the drop down box below, select a variety and then click the More Information Button.


 

SUMMARY CHARACTERISTICS OF BLACK RUSSIAN



F1 OR OPEN POLLINATED?: Black Russian is open pollinated and will grow true from saved seed. Click here for clear instructions and even clearer pictures on how to save seeds from Black Russian tomatoes.

GROWTH TYPE: Cordon, vigorous grower which needs to be kept in check

WHERE TO GROW: Cold greenhouse or outdoors in many areas of the UK. Not in a warm greenhouse.
 
USE: Salads, and by itself

SKIN COLOUR / TEXTURE: Mahogany purple / chocolate skin colour

FLESH COLOUR: Orange

TASTE AND TEXTURE: Good balance of sweet and acid with a dense texture

STORAGE: Does not store well, the fresher the better

TOMATO SIZE: Variable, can be large

REGULARITY OF CROPPING: Regularly produces a good yield if growing conditions are good. In poorer conditions the crop will be low.

AWARDS: None

SPECIAL FEATURES: Unusual taste and looks

WHEN TO SOW BLACK RUSSIAN TOMATO SEED


The key dates for sowing and planting out Black Russian tomato seeds are given below. The dates displayed below are correct for the UK average. If you want them to be even more accurate and adjusted for your area of the UK click here. It only takes a minute and the adjustment affects every date in this site and lasts for six months.
  • Sow seeds in pots indoors
    Second week of March
     
  • Pot up young plants
    Second week of April
     
  • Harden off young plants
    Second week of May
     
  • Plant out young plants
    Last week of May

WHEN TO HARVEST BLACK RUSSIAN TOMATOES


This variety is a cordon type tomato and if they are pruned in that way you can expect to be picking your first Black Russian tomatoes in the first week of August
 

 

BUYING BLACK RUSSIAN SEED / PLANTS IN THE UK


Seeds for this variety are available from many online seed merchants and some garden centres. It is also often available in some seed swap schemes for free. They are occasionally available from the discount stores and supermarkets.

The cheapest reliable seeds for this variety we could find this year was at Kings Seeds at only £1.30 for 30 seeds, almost half the price of T & M for those looking for a bargain!



If you need any more information on growing this variety, click here to go to our main tomato page.

Other varieties which may also be of interest include:

ALICANTE
 
GARDENERS DELIGHT
 
AILSA CRAIG SAN MARZANO

COMMENTS / QUESTIONS LEFT BY OUR READERS

Sometimes our readers ask specific questions which are not covered in the main article above. Our
Outdoor Tomatoes comment / question and answer page
lists their comments, questions and answers. At the end of that page there is also a form for you to submit any new question or comment you have.