Looks like your everyday red variety of tomato has some competition. Have you heard of the new Indigo Rose..the purple tomato teeming with antioxidants praised for their nutritional prowess? It’s more than a pretty pop of color tempting your palette; the indigo rose is pumped with anthocyanins, antioxidants that enrich the tomato with a purple hue and protect against cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative conditions.
The Birth of the Indigo Rose
The birth of the indigo rose tomato can be traced back to the 1960s, when two scientists cross-cultivated the standard red tomato with wild species of tomato from the Galapagos Islands and Chile. These wild varieties contained anthocyanins.
It wasn’t until recently, however, that a team of graduate researchers under the leadership of Professor Jim Myers of the University of Oregon, were able to cultivate a brand new breed of purple tomato. Previously, wild garden tomatoes sported purple leaves or stems, but no purple (or anthocyanins) on the edible parts of the plant. The purple did absolutely no good in the wrong places!
Myers and his team successfully bred red and purple tomato plants to create the indigo rose, the darkest variety of tomato around. According to Myers, “It is the first improved tomato variety in the world that has anthocyanins in its fruit.”
What’s the Big Deal About Anthocyanins
Anthocyanins are antioxidants that have been touted for their pain-relieving, neuroprotective, and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that a diet rich in anthocyanins may help treat and prevent diabetes, depression, anxiety, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer.
Red vs. Purple
Myers claims that indigo rose tomatoes taste the same as red tomatoes, but it’s important to wait until they are ripe to harvest and eat so that the sugars and acids have had time to completely develop. Like the red tomato, the indigo rose is green when unripe, and turns purple when exposed to sunlight. When the purple hue has changed from a purple-blue to a purple-brown, it’s a green light go for consumption.
Blueberries are another fruit known for their high concentration of anthocyanins. They actually have more anthocyanins than indigo rose tomatoes do. Nonetheless, people consume tomatoes more than blueberries—Americans eat 22 pounds of tomatoes a year according to USDA estimates! So adding some indigo rose in with red is a way to ensure you’re consuming a healthy amount of protective anthocyanin antioxidants.
Note: Hybridization has been used for thousands of years to create new species of plants and is not to be confused with genetically modified foods.