According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are over 25,000 varieties of tomatoes in existence, so I guess I can be forgiven for never having heard of a Black Icicle tomato plant (Solanum lycopersicum ‘Black Icicle’). However, I just might be in the minority, as it does seem that Black Icicle tomatoes are fast becoming a favorite of home gardeners and chefs alike. Let’s find out why, shall we?
What is a Black Icicle Tomato Plant?
Black Icicle tomatoes originate from the Ukraine where they are known as “Sosulka Chernaya,” which translates into “black icicle.” Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds takes credit for introducing this Ukranian heirloom into the United States along with its fellow pink, yellow and orange Icicle tomato varieties. The original credit for the discovery of Black Icicle, however, goes to Aleksey Kulik, who discovered the tomato, an accidental cross of different tomato varieties, in his tomato fields. The seeds from this tomato discovery were commercially disseminated across the Ukraine and Russia by Kulik’s partner and friend Denis Terentiev.
Quite honestly, I’m not sure why this heirloom paste tomato’s namesake is an icicle. Shape-wise, its elongated 2- to 3-inch (5-8 cm.) long fruits resemble a Roma tomato, which, as you know, is not even remotely close to a spiky long, narrow icicle shape. You might even think this thick-walled tomato is called icicle for its taste, but no. The taste isn’t described as sharp or acidic, it’s universally characterized as sweet, rich, and earthy – very similar to the flavor of a beefsteak tomato.
So there goes that theory. So maybe it’s a reference to being winter hardy? Again – no. Black Icicle tomatoes will get killed by frost like any other tomato. Alright – I give up! Let’s just say it’s referred to as icicle because it’s brilliant! In fact, any tomato is brilliant in my book that has minimal seeds, making Black Icicle tomatoes perfect for incorporating into stews or making sauces and salsa! And – as for black? Well, this descriptor is probably due to the tomato’s dark burgundy-brown undertones and hues, which are near black in appearance.
Growing Heirloom Tomatoes
Many growers remark that Black Icicle tomato plants are strong producers. They are classified as an indeterminate variety tomato, which means they are a vining plant that will continually set and ripen fruit throughout the growing season until frost hits. While they are rated for USDA zones 3-11, those with shorter growing seasons will need to bear in mind that it takes up to 75-80 days for the Black Icicle fruits to mature and to plan accordingly!
It is recommended to start these tomatoes indoors 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost date. Sow the seed 1/8 inch deep in pots and place in a warm spot (75-90 F. or 24-32 C.), keeping the soil consistently moist to help encourage germination. Transplant outside in full sun, spaced 30-36 inches (76-91 cm.) apart with large tomato cages for support, after the threat of frost has passed.