You are looking out into your garden and racking your brain for the next planting addition. Then it hits you that you don’t have any tomato plants in your garden.
But there’s a problem. You live in a chilly area, and you know tomatoes do best in warm weather.
While that is true, you’re in luck. There are a few tomato varieties that excel in cold weather and still thrive under the glare of the full sun. Such is the nature of the black prince.
Unlike most tomato varieties that only do well in full sun and warm weather, this one doesn’t falter when it’s cold.
Natives of Siberia, black princes are popular with gardeners living in cold climates.Other than their resistance to cold temperatures, their flavor and taste make them a gardener’s favorite.
With a history going back more than 50 years, this tomato falls under the heirloom variety.
But before we get into how to grow this heirloom tomato, what makes them so good?
Heirloom tomatoes, like apples, come in different varieties, each with a unique flavor.
Store-bought tomatoes are often bland. Most are also genetically modified to make them look ‘perfect’ and appealing.
With the black prince, you are confident that you are getting an organic tomato. A plant whose fruit has not undergone any modification for commercial purposes.
If you want a flavorful tomato with a rich taste, the black prince is hard to beat. But before you get that fruit to your table, there’s one question you might be grappling with…
How Do I Grow Black Prince Tomatoes?
Like other tomatoes, growing black princes is easy.
As a black heirloom tomato, black princes are what you would consider a gourmet tomato. Part of the reason is that their seeds are rarely sold in regular seed stores.
Instead, black prince heirloom tomato seeds are mostly passed down from one generation to the other.
Even with their popularity among gardeners and enthusiasts, their seeds are still rare.
The good news is that once you lay your hand on these tomatoes, you will have seeds for as long as you want to plant them.
Black princes are open-pollinated heirloom tomato variety. Thus, black prince heirloom tomatoes retain the same rich flavor and taste from their parent plants.
It’s common practice for gardeners to keep fruits from a previous season for their seeds.
To enjoy the same rich taste from future fruits, ensure you only save seeds from your best plants. That way, you can rest assured that the seeds will produce fruits with the same flavor profile as the parent plant.
Guidelines for Planting Black Prince Tomato
Once you sow tomatoes, they’ll take 60 to 80+ days to mature. Late-season tomatoes take 80+ days while mid and early-season varieties take 60-80 and 50-60 days respectively.
The black prince takes about 70 days, making it a mid-season tomato. As it is for many tomato plants, frost is an enemy of the black prince.
This is why the best time to start growing these plants is in spring, once the frost is gone. Alternatively, you can wait for summer when you are certain that the weather will be warm.
When growing the tomato black prince, space the plants between 24 and 36 inches apart.
The black prince tomato plant is indeterminate. This means its plants can grow to be well over 5 feet high.
These tomato plants continue to grow and bear numerous fruits. For optimal production, you’ll need to keep pruning them.
Pruning reduces competition for nutrients. In turn, it ensures that flowering branches get enough nutrition for better production.
The determinate variety bears all fruits at once. But, indeterminate plants keep on giving as long as they are alive.
Now that you know how to grow black princes, what are the common problems to look out for?
Common Problems When Planting Black Prince Tomatoes
There is no foolproof way to prevent all pests and diseases from infesting your crop.
The best you can do is take precautions and nip problems in the bud before they take root.
Below are a few common tomato diseases:
Starting as a brown spot on lower leaves, this disease progresses to turn the leaf yellow. What follows is leaves fall off as the disease progresses up the plant.
While it might not stop fruit production or ripening, the last thing a gardener wants is to watch as their plant dies.
Alternaria solani, the pathogen that causes early blight resides in the soil. It’s also one of the harder ones to completely clear from your soil.
Fortunately, mulching immediately after transplanting the seedlings prevents early blight. Mulch forms a barrier between the plant and the soil.
This prevents the disease-causing spores from splashing onto the plant when watering.
A highly destructive tomato disease, late blight causes the development of slimy and wet splotches on leaves.
Eventually, the stem rots, with affected areas turning black and slimy.
The reason late blight is so destructive is that its spores spread through the wind. Once it hits an area, controlling it is nearly impossible.
The best chance of preventing late blight is planting seeds from parent plants that were grown locally.
Fortunately, early blight is less common than other tomato diseases.
Septoria Leaf Spot
As the name suggests, Septoria lycopersici is characterized by leaf spots. The spots that appear as a result feature light centers and a darker shade of brown on their edges.
Although it might take days, the spots cover the leaf making it turn yellow then brown before falling off.
To prevent the disease from affecting your crop, fungicides work best.
However, once the disease takes root, the only remedy is to cut off and destroy the affected leaves.
Disinfecting your pruning tools and equipment after using them on infected plants helps stop the diseases’ spread.
How Do I Harvest and Store Heirloom Black Prince Tomato?
After about 70 days and when temperatures are about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, your tomatoes will start ripening.
Because black prince plants keep flowering, you’ll need to harvest your fruits at least twice a week.
This will provide a constant supply of fresh tomatoes. Additionally, it will prevent fruits from weighing down and breaking the plant.
The remaining fruits will also ripen faster. With less competition for nutrients, they’ll also have an enhanced flavor.
When they are ripe, they’ll be a deep purple-maroon at the top. That color will transition to a red-maroon hue towards the bottom.
Some will have green stripes on the skin, and these will be ready to pick too. Don’t throw out green fruits at the end of the season.
Ripe fruits will be hefty and firm and will give way slightly when you apply a gentle squeeze.
To harvest ripe fruits, pull them from the vine with a light tug. If that doesn’t work, allow the fruit to stay on the vine for a few more days to ripen so it’s easier to detach from the stem.
You can also harvest fruits that have started to change color but are still green. To continue ripening indoors, we recommend that you harvest them with a few inches of the vine remaining.
Store unripe fruits indoors at temperatures around 70 to 75 degrees F, but away from sunlight. As they ripen, they’ll have a better flavor than when exposed to the sun.
Depending on how ripe they are when you pick them, fruits can stay in the fruit bowl for about a week after picking. However, they are better tasting when consumed within 3 days after ripening.
Those that lose their firmness before they make it onto a plate can be used to make sauces.
If you have grown tomatoes before, black princes are not that different. The only difference is in the flavor, color, and richness of these heirloom tomatoes.
Here are more tips on planting tomatoes.
Do you want to learn more about gardening in general? At the Gardening Channel, we share advice and tips on gardening to help you maximize your planting seasons and available space.
Photo from njaes.rutgers.edu