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"The Black Tomatoes" Craze in Da Lat and Farmers Cultivation Methods.

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

Apart from its beautiful landscapes, fresh air, and enticing cuisine, the "specialty" of Da Lat includes high-tech agricultural gardens, an indispensable characteristic of this city. Fruits such as strawberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers are grown in these gardens, and many farmers open their doors to tourists for sightseeing, self-picking, and tasting, which has become a familiar experience. Currently, there are even more exotic types of produce in Da Lat that attract tourists, ranging from giant pumpkins to miniature vegetables, and most notably, the miraculous "black tomatoes".

The Remarkable Features of Black Tomatoes.

  • Origin: United States

  • Black tomatoes boast a unique appearance with their black skin and red flesh. They are characterized by their high nutritional content and distinctive aroma, weighing between 60 to 65 grams each.

  • The tomato plants grow to a height of 1.8 to 2 meters and yield abundant fruits.

  • These black tomatoes can be grown throughout the year, making them a versatile crop choice. The germination period ranges from 7 to 10 days, and the harvest time is approximately 65 to 70 days after planting.

The Remarkable Features of Black Tomatoes.
The Remarkable Features of Black Tomatoes.

The black tomato variety has recently gained immense popularity, standing out among other sought-after produce like Japanese strawberries, French cucumbers, baby cucumbers, Japanese net melons, and red bell peppers from Da Lat. The allure of the black tomato lies not only in its extraordinary black color, but also in its remarkably high content of Anthocyanin, which has anti-cancer properties. Additionally, this unique fruit is known for its effectiveness in combating obesity, heart issues, diabetes, and aging.

The cultivation of black tomatoes currently follows seasonal patterns, and they are not widely available year-round. To taste these delicacies, one must wait from July to the end of October. Typically, farmers start planting from February to April, allowing approximately three months for the plants to grow and produce ripe fruits. Black tomatoes are usually grown from seeds, with a germination period of 4 to 6 days.

While black tomatoes can be grown in various environments, it is often recommended to cultivate them in greenhouses to ensure optimal growth conditions, regulating factors such as temperature and protecting the crops from external influences. They can be planted in pots or larger containers with a diameter of at least 30cm, providing enough space for the roots to develop.

However, despite its allure, black tomatoes are not easy to cultivate, and many families in Da Lat have faced challenges in successfully growing this variety. Some experienced poor growth, plant death, low yields, or a lack of the characteristic black color. Few households, like Mrs. Pham Thanh Thuy's in K'Long C hamlet, Hiep An commune, Duc Trong district, Lam Dong province, have managed to cultivate this variety successfully. Mrs. Thuy shared her experience of experimenting with 200 black tomato plants in mid-2014, using seeds purchased at 7,000 VND per seed. The seeds were germinated in small coconut husk bags. When the plants reached a height of about 10 cm, she grafted them onto the roots of red tomato varieties, resulting in a relatively high survival rate for the plants.

Challenges in Cultivating Black Tomatoes in Da Lat.

According to Mr. Huu Hung, who conducted experimental cultivation of black tomatoes in Da Lat, growing this particular crop is not easy due to susceptibility to fungal diseases. He speculates that the weather conditions in the Duc Trong region might be more suitable for black tomatoes compared to Da Lat. Moreover, both regions are renowned for tomato cultivation, and farmers in Duc Trong have more experience in tomato farming.

Mrs. Le Thi Huyen, residing in Thai Phien, Da Lat, also attempted to grow black tomatoes in late 2014 but faced failure. She reported that out of 50 plants, only 30 survived, and the plants produced few fruits that did not turn black. In contrast, Mr. Le Huu Phan's black tomato garden flourished, with abundant and completely black fruits from the roots to the top. When fully matured, all the fruits exhibited the distinct black color.

Challenges in Cultivating Black Tomatoes in Da Lat.
Challenges in Cultivating Black Tomatoes in Da Lat.

Mr. Phan's family mainly produces tomato seedlings for other gardens in Da Lat. Some companies have imported black tomato seeds to Da Lat for experimental planting over the past two years. Mr. Phan supplied black tomato seedlings to several households for testing, but the results were not successful. Based on this experience, local gardeners in Da Lat concluded that the natural and soil conditions in the region are not conducive to this type of crop.

In an effort to demonstrate that black tomatoes can indeed thrive and yield high-quality produce in Da Lat, in July 2015, Mr. Phan allocated 300 square meters of his nursery to plant two types of tomatoes: black and sweet, for comparison. When the seeds of both types germinated, Mr. Phan grafted them onto regular tomato plants. After the plants reached a height of about 20 cm, he transplanted them into a greenhouse with an automatic irrigation system. Mr. Phan planted the tomatoes on elevated ridges, 20 cm high and 120 cm wide, using organic fertilizers and a layer of peat moss covered with nylon. With nearly 30 years of farming experience, he implemented his own cultivation techniques for black tomatoes.

The results showed that black tomatoes in Mr. Phan's garden grew rapidly, with robust and lush foliage, and began fruiting at about 50 days old. Currently, he owns 250 black tomato plants and 400 sweet tomato plants on a 300-square-meter plot. Both black and sweet tomatoes developed well, producing abundant fruits from the roots to the tops. Surprisingly, the black tomatoes even yielded more and larger fruits than the sweet ones. Currently, the tomato plants in Mr. Phan's garden have reached a height of about 2.5 meters and continue to grow taller.

How to Plant and Care for Black Tomato Plants.

When it comes to planting, prepare the soil carefully and select good seeds. It is recommended to purchase seeds from reputable sellers to ensure the highest germination rate. Then, proceed to sow the seeds and water the plants. Place the plants in a location with moderate sunlight, and the ideal planting density is 80 cm apart to allow for the development of multiple branches and ensure the plant's growth.

Watering is crucial at key stages, especially when the plant starts flowering and fruiting. In the early stages of planting, water the plants once a day, but as the plants grow and during hot days, increase the frequency to 2-3 times a day.

Supporting the Black Tomato Plants with a Trellis

  • After ensuring sufficient water and nutrients, it's essential to cultivate the soil, remove weeds, and prune dry and diseased branches to promote the plant's healthy growth. Adjust the care regime according to the specific stage of plant development.

  • As the plants grow, it's necessary to provide a trellis or support system to prevent the plants from collapsing when the fruits develop. Tying the plants to the trellis will ensure stability. Additionally, topping or pinching the plants can be done during certain stages of growth to encourage more shoots, which will facilitate increased flowering and fruiting.

How to Plant and Care for Black Tomato Plants.
How to Plant and Care for Black Tomato Plants.
Farmers in Da Lat have embraced this opportunity to meet the growing demand for black tomatoes, employing various cultivation methods to ensure a bountiful harvest. The favorable climate and fertile soil of the region have proven to be conducive to the growth of these unique tomatoes, enhancing their taste and nutritional value.

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