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Cherokee Purple tomato is not just an ordinary fruit! No, it is an heirloom tomato variety with a dusky rose color and green shoulders.
The best of all is the deep rich flavor, delicious 😋. The indeterminate type produces heavy fruits mid-summer to the last frost date when many vegetables are already fading.
These beefsteak tomatoes🍅 can reach nine feet long, but there are a few things to be aware of when growing Cherokee Purple tomatoes.
Today, we will look at caring for these tomato plants that produce a smoky flavor as fried green tomatoes.
Plant Name: Solanum lycopersicum Cherokee Purple
Other Name: Cherokee Purple tomato
Plant Type: Vine fruit
Native Areas: Andes Mountains and South America
Light Requirement: Full sun
Fertilizer: Well-rotted manure
Toxicity: Foliage is toxic to pets
Propagation: Cherokee Purple seeds
Growth: Vines reach 9 feet long and 2-3 feet wide
Soil Type: Well-drained soil
USDA Hardiness Zones: Grown as annuals
What Are Cherokee Purple Tomato Plants?
Great question! In one word… it’s scrumptious.
With a few more words…it is an old Cherokee Indian heirloom tomato with a sweet flavor and an interesting appearance. The tomatoes have a purple-pink flesh with a deep red inside, producing a rich taste and juicy texture.
After planting the tomato seeds, it is ready to harvest in 80 to 90 days. The heirloom tomato variety continually grows to produce tomatoes until killed by frost. Open pollination occurs in the seeds producing delicious tomatoes identical to the parent.
Types of Cherokee Purple Tomatoes
Since these are heirloom tomatoes, there are no other tomatoes in the cultivar, but if you are a fan of eating green tomatoes, you may enjoy the Cherokee Green. It is the cousin of the Cherokee Purple tomato but produces green, a medium fruit size. The tomato has a yellowish-orange hue and is more acidic, but still a delicious treat.
Both types you can use as sun-dried tomatoes to grill for different foods.
Cherokee Purple Tomato Care
As with most tomato plants, the heirloom tomato needs the same attention. Still, Cherokee Purple is not too difficult to grow.
The tomato plants are tolerant to mild drought, and the tomatoes are resistant to cracking. Like most vining varieties, it needs good staking using tomato cages, but you can control the vines with pruning.
The plant is open-pollinated, meaning the seeds are saved from the plant and produce delicious fruit year after year. Hence, they make for exceptional seed savers.
Cherokee Purple Tomato Light
As with most tomatoes, the Cherokee Purple heirloom needs full sun at least eight hours during the growing season. But you need good coverage of leafy growth to shield the fruits as they ripen from the sun.
Cherokee Tomatoes Soil Needs
When you grow tomatoes, they are susceptible to different soil-borne diseases. Tomato plants prefer slightly acidic but well-draining soil, and best to amend it using organic matter to compost. We recommend one between 6.5 to 7.5 for a balanced soil pH level.
Watering Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato
Your plant can thrive on two inches of water weekly but tolerate short periods of drought. We recommend installing soaker hoses for your heirloom variety. Another crucial thing is to water 💦 at the soil line and not do overhead watering that leads to leaf spots and other diseases.
Neither do they do well sitting in water, and using drip hoses works best.
Temperature and Humidity
While these favorite tomatoes prefer warm weather, they thrive between 75°F and 95°F. They love full sun with some afternoon shade but do not handle fluctuating temperatures as it affects the size and ripening time of the tomatoes.
The heirloom tomatoes can withstand occasional temperature drops to 50°F but will only produce fruits when the temperatures rise to 65°F or above. When temperatures rise above 85°F, the flowers drop and fail to develop fruits.
The humidity level is 65% to 85%, but extended heat to moist conditions leads to insect and fungal problems.
Fertilizing Cherokee Purple Heirloom
Fertilizing your tomato plants is tricky, and you can expect different answers from each expert grower when asked. But we recommend following the basic NPK ratios and depending on the soil fertility when growing Cherokee Purple tomatoes.
The only way to determine this is through a soil test, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has a helpful list of where you can do it in your vicinity. Still, to enjoy a delicious tomato, the plant has minimal nutritional needs, and using a low NPK ratio when planting should be enough.
Consider something like a 5-10-5 fee, and when the plant flowers, you can add more phosphorous and potassium while keeping the nitrogen low. For mid-season feeding, an NPK ratio of 6-24-24-2 should be fine.
Pruning Cherokee Purple Tomato Plants
The heirloom tomato plants benefit from early to late pruning. With early pruning, you pinch out the suckers, the new leafy growth found at the junction of the two vines.
The fabulous thing is you can train the vines to grow more compact when removing the suckers for the first few weeks after transplanting them.
But the fruit production will need shade from the full sun to ripen, and best to avoid too much suckering to keep the fruit covered.
For late pruning, you can do this by heading back the pruned cuts on the vines. This helps when cooler weather sets in, prevents more flowers from fruit and sends the energy to the ripening of the fruit.
You can also remove the nonfruit production vines to damaged stems and leaves during the growing season but remember to keep the foliage providing shade.
Important tip: Do not leave any tomato pruning in the garden and remove them to dispose of as they can carry diseases and do not make compost material.
Potting and Repotting Cherokee Purple Tomatoes
While growing tomatoes are mostly outdoors, you can grow the Cherokee Purple tomato in pots. Still, managing them is difficult as they vine and are not bush-type tomatoes.
You must provide each plant with a container 24 inches in diameter with large drainage holes.
Then add a good mix of compost with soil and support to anchor your vining plant. You may also need to water this heirloom tomato daily.
The only time to repot your heirloom tomato is by moving the Cherokee Purple tomato seeds into a new pot with a soil-based potting mix. 🤭
How to Propagate Cherokee Purple Tomatoes
Cherokee Purple tomatoes you can grow from the suckers or cuttings. To do this, you use hand pruners to remove up to an eight-inch sucker or cut from the tip of the vine on new growth. Then place the cutting in water or soil until the roots develop in a week.
Growing Tomatoes From Seed
Another reliable way to grow the heirloom tomato is through seeds. You can save the seed from the fruits to plant the following year. You can start the Cherokee Purple heirloom indoors about eight weeks before the last frost.
Use a cell tray or a small container with a seed starting mix.
Plant the heirloom tomato seeds about 1/8 inch deep to cover lightly with the soil.
Moisten the soil, place the cells or pots in a solid bottom tray, and add more water.
Watering from the bottom will help with root growth and will not damage the seedlings when they sprout in about two weeks.
Once you notice true leaves, you can put them into a soil-based mix with fertilizer.
Common Pests and Tomato Diseases
The Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato is not bred to resist diseases like the hybrid varieties found. Hence, they are more vulnerable to pest infestations and diseases. Some pests that love to attack your Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato are tobacco hornworms, blister beetles, aphids, and fall armyworms.
Aphids you can knock down with a spray of water using a hose or spray your heirloom tomatoes with insecticidal soap. For caterpillars, you will need to handpick them. To target worms, we recommend Baccilus Thuringgiensis, a biological pesticide.
For blister beetles, you must use repeated applications using synthetic pesticides.
Another helpful tip is that when you grow tomatoes, they are vulnerable to bacterial infections, and to avoid them use healthy soil. Furthermore, crop rotation also helps and avoid planting your tomatoes where you previously planted them:
Common Problems with Cherokee Purple Tomato
Furthermore, problems like powdery mildew, mosaic virus, botrytis gray mold, fusarium wilt, and even alternaria stem canker are caused by growing conditions. But there are also other common problems you can find with your tomatoes.
Blossom End Rot
When the fruits of Cherokee purple grow, and you see black sunken spots developing at the bottom, it results from insufficient calcium with hot, dry weather and inconsistent watering. Still, as the vines grow fast, they can recover, and not common to see them disappear in the first fruits when new fruit production appears.
You can remove the affected fruits.
Blossom Drop and Poor Fruit Set
The biggest culprit causing flowers to fall before fruiting is the weather, inconsistent watering, and both. While Cherokee Purple is tolerant to short droughts, they do not produce fruits when hot and too dry.
Pale Green or Yellowing Leaves
No matter what tomato plants you have, the leaves must be a deep green color. When pale leaves appear, it can result from a lack of nutrients. You can test the soil to ensure that you provide them with the proper nutrients when planting. During the growth cycle, leaves at the bottom turning yellow and falling off is normal.
But when you notice yellow top leaves, then relook your watering schedule.
Sunscald on Fruit
Tomatoes will have scaly brown spots and results when the fruits do not have enough coverage from the foliage against the sun.
Frequently Asked Questions
A natural feature of Cherokee Purples is green shoulders, and you gently press the fruit using your thumb. When the skin gives in slightly and is dusky red, you can harvest your tomatoes.
You can find dark fleshed tomatoes in the plum and slice types. One tomato similar to the Cherokee Purples is the:
Black From Tula
For plum tomatoes, you find Purple Russian and Black Plum
When Cherokee Purple grows and reaches up to eight inches tall, ensure to harden them off before transplanting them outdoors.
With a tomato, you can grow garlic, onions, peppers, basil, and more as companion plants.
The following plants you should grow with your tomato plants: corn, cabbage, broccoli, dill, fennel, walnuts, eggplant, and potatoes.
The Purple Cherokee has a rich yet complex flavor, is best enjoyed fresh, and slices well.