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All About Growing and Eating the Delicious Cherokee Carbon Tomato

What do you get when you marry an award-winning heirloom tomato that dates back to the Cherokee Indians and one that won the best-tasting tomato award at the Heirloom Garden Show? A Cherokee Carbon Tomato, of course! Read on to find out more about this purple beefsteak tomato that one reviewer said will give you the best tomato sandwich you’ve ever had.

Cherokee Carbon Tomato

It All Starts With Good Parenting

First things first, let’s talk about the parents of the Cherokee Carbon tomato. This hybrid tomato is a cross between the Cherokee Purple and Carbon heirloom tomatoes.

The Cherokee Purple tomato is a pre-1890 variety with a dark purple color and sweet, rich taste. The Carbon tomato is considered a black tomato and boasts a sweet-smoky taste.

The Cherokee Carbon is an “Heirloom Marriage Beefsteak Tomato” that combines the best of both worlds – heirloom quality and hybrid resiliency. It matures earlier and produces a higher yield, all while keeping the great flavor if its parents.


The Carbon Cherokee tomato is a dark purple-pink beefsteak tomato. Weighing in at 10-12 ounces, makes it a nice hefty meaty tomato.

As for taste, the Cherokee Carbon has the full, rich, award-winning flavor of the Carbon tomato. It has been described as sweet, tangy, and smoky.

Growing Your Own

While you may be able to find a Cherokee Carbon tomato at your local farmer’s market or produce stand, chances are you won’t find them in your local grocery store.

That means the best way to enjoy this variety is to grow it yourself.

Start Indoors

Using a premium seed starting kit that contains everything you need, including the soil, start your Cherokee Carbon tomato seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in your area.

After filling each cell of your starting kit with a seed starting mix, plant two seeds per cell. Cover the seeds and gently water with a watering can or spray bottle a couple of times a day. Keep the soil moist but not wet.

Tomato Grow Light

Once your Cherokee Carbon seeds start to sprout, thin the seedlings to one per cell. At this point, you can hang a grow light a few inches above your new plants.

Prevent Legginess

In order to prevent legginess, or weak spindly stalks, be sure your lights aren’t set too far away from the plants. Legginess is caused by your plants having to reach for proper light.

Even if you do everything right, sometimes legginess simply can’t be avoided. Don’t throw your Cherokee Carbon plants out with the seed cells!

Tomatoes grow roots along their stem. When it’s time to transplant, simply plant them sideways curving the end of the stem upward and add a quality fertilizer.

Hardening Off

About a week before the last frost, start setting your plants outside for a couple of hours a day, gradually increasing the time until they are outside the entire day. This is called hardening your plants and will help them adapt better when you finally get to put them in the ground.

After hardening off your plants, it’s finally time to actually plant them in your garden. Tomatoes love the sun, so be sure to plant them where they get full sun for as long as possible each day.


While you can plant Cherokee Carbon tomatoes in containers, they are indeterminate plants, meaning they continue to grow during the entire growing season. That translates to plants that can grow up to 7′ tall. So, you’ll want nice deep, wide containers with cages around them to support the plants.

When planting in your garden, keep in mind that the plants grow tall and wide, so they need plenty of room. Space them 18″-36″ apart with 36″-48″ between rows.

Not only do they grow tall, but they tomatoes they produce get heavy on the vine. Be sure to build cages or supports around the plants to keep them upright.

Less Catfacing

“Catfacing” is the name given to the severe scarring and dimpling at the blossom end of the tomato. Basically, if you’ve picked a tomato that looks wonky, chances are it has catfacing. No, it doesn’t actually look like a cat face. Yes, you can still eat it.

Catfacing Tomato

Thankfully, the Cherokee Carbon tomato was developed to help prevent catfacing. It also has excellent resistance against other common tomato diseases.

Harvesting and Eating

Finally, it’s time to talk about harvesting and eating your Cherokee Carbon tomatoes.

You’ll be ready to harvest your big, juicy, flavorful beefsteak tomatoes about 75-80 days after planting. It’s definitely worth the wait!

Beefsteak tomatoes can be sliced and eaten on a sandwich, with cottage cheese, or just plain. There are some people who pick and eat them just like an apple. They’re that good, and don’t really need anything else.


But, if you want to use them in a recipe, try whipping up this Beefsteak Tomato Salad while you’re waiting on the steaks to finish up on the grill.

Cherokee Tomato Slices

Better yet, forget about the steak and use your Cherokee Carbon tomatoes to make these stuffed tomatoes that you can cook right on the grill.

Where to Buy Cherokee Carbon Tomato Seeds

Ready to plant your own Cherokee Carbon tomatoes? You can purchase seeds direct from Botanical Interests. You’ll love their seed packets. They look nothing like the boring packaging in your local big box store.

The packets don’t just look like gorgeous works of art. They also include helpful information like garden history, recipes, fun facts, and of course, high-quality seeds.

Straight Outta the Garden!

Let’s be honest; there’s really nothing like a nice, big, juicy, freshly-picked beefsteak tomato straight out of the garden! And the Cherokee Carbon is no exception. This beauty will be a great addition to any garden and on your summer dinner plate.

Ready to learn more about different varieties of tomatoes and decide which ones you’ll be planting this year? Check out our Tomato Page. You’ll even find information on tomatoes that you can harvest at 50 days, while you’re patiently waiting for your Cherokee Carbon tomatoes.