Cherokee Purple, Heirloom
The 12 ounce, pink to dusky purple fruit, with brown undertones, and
shoulders that often stay green when ripe, are produced on vigorous six
foot vines, and tolerate drought, disease, and heat better than average for a
non-hybrid. The flesh is brick red. It is thought there are 2 strains of Cherokee with the only difference being
that one has a more chocolate coloration.
Cherokee is very hardy and generally performs well even under adverse conditions. Some seed catalogs attribute poor production, but I've generally found yields to be fair to good. The flavor is very rich and sweet, with smoky undertones. I rate it very highly for taste. In fact, for slices on a sandwich or wedges on a salad, none is better - no salt needed.
The variety could very possibly date back more than 100 years. John.D. Green of Sevierville TN was given seed by a lady who obtained hers from a neighbor that swore the tomatoes were were originally grown by the Cherokee Indians. John sent seed to Craig LeHoullier who contributed samples to SSE, a seedsaver exchange, in 1991.
Growing great tomatoes with legendary taste in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee is not exclusive to the Cherokee Indians. Grainger County folks have been bragging about the great taste of tomatoes grown in the valleys of eastern Tennessee for over a century.
During the first half of the 20th Century moonshine was Grainger's chief commercial product, and then until recently tobacco. But the demand for tobacco decreased so now Grainger County is No. 1 in the state in tomato production, while Tennessee itself is 4th in the nation. From April to November growing tomatoes is Grainger's primary focus. The producers are so proud of their tomatoes they put a sticker with the county name on each one. "It's the decomposed limestone in the soil," some say that gives such a great flavor to the fresh-from-the-farm tomatoes. It's that too, but it's also the dedication and careful attention that the conscientious growers give to their work that makes a Grainger tomato stand out from the rest.