Black zebra, the darker striped tomato

Black zebra tomato

‘Black Zebra’ tomato: key facts

Botanical name – Solanum lycopersicum
Common name – ‘Black Zebra’ tomato
Family – Solanaceae

Type – fruit vegetable
Height – indeterminate
Planting distance – 20 inches (80 cm)

Exposure – full sun
Soil – cool, healthy, rich, soft
Planting – May
Harvest – July to September

The ‘Black Zebra’ tomato is a very original early tomato variety. It produces striped fruits. The brown-red skin is marked with dark green strips, nearly black in color. An annual native to California, the Black Zebra’s fruits are juicy and their taste is deliciously rich, typical of those black-colored tomatoes. Without any trace of acidity, their flesh is particularly well-suited to eating raw.

Sowing the ‘Black Zebra’ tomato

This cold-vulnerable plant should be started on a warm growing bed: sow your ‘Black Zebra’ from mid-February to May.

  • Indoors, your nursery pots should be kept at a temperature that hovers between 60 and 68°F (16 to 20°C). Apart from warmth, natural light is also necessary.
  • Bury 1 or 2 seeds in each nursery pot, under 1/4th inch of seedling soil mix (5 to 7 mm). Don’t add any compost at this stage, you’ll risk burning off the roots of the tomato plant.
  • Following that, use a hand sprayer to moisten the soil around the seeds without getting anything soggy.
  • Two weeks are typically necessary for the seeds to germinate.

To learn more, read: Starting tomato seedlings off right

Planting ‘Black Zebra’ tomatoes

Transplant your young ‘Black Zebra’ tomato plantlets towards mid-May, when the last frost date has passed.

  • Black zebra tomato with green stripes formingSelect a spot that in full sun for the planting, and make sure to amend the soil well before transplanting your seedlings in it.
  • Count out about 30 inches between plants (80 cm) as you plant them. Set your stakes into the ground even before settling the transplants in.
  • Once you’re done, all that’s left to do is to water the base of the plant, and spread mulch all around.

Growing and care

Since it’s an indeterminate growing variety, the Black Zebra requires staking as soon as it’s planted. Like most tomatoes, it’s a plant that’s vulnerable to the cold. It’s thus grown as an annual. Prefer spots for it that don’t reach scorching dry temperatures and in which the soil stays cool, light and rich. If you live in a place where the weather gets cold fast, it’s better to grow it in a greenhouse (or a tunnel).

  • A thick layer of mulch will help you keep the soil moist and stop it from getting waterlogged; this will spare you the many tomato diseases that are often brought on by excess moisture.
  • In case of extreme heat, make sure you water your Black Zebra tomatoes at their base, without ever wetting the leaves.

To learn more, read: The right way to grow tomatoes

Diseases and pests

The ‘Black Zebra’ tomato is vulnerable to mildew, both the powdery one and the downy one.

Harvest and keeping

You can start harvesting ‘Black Zebra’ tomatoes from your plants about 4 to 5 months after you’ve sown them. Harvest whichever fruits are ripe when you’re preparing your meals, anytime from from July to September. Only harvest whichever fruits are perfectly ripe.

After the harvest, Black Zebra tomatoes will keep in the vegetable rack in your refrigerator for a few days. You can also spread the fruits out on a tray in the open air. Best, of course, is to eat them on the same day you’ve picked them! This tomato is also perfectly suited to being cooked and preserved in airtight jars.

How to cook with the Black Zebra tomato?

Black zebra tomato and green zebra tomato next to each otherThe Black Zebra is ideal for salads, and you can also slice it thinly to prepare delicious fresh tomato carpaccio. A nice way to eat it is simply to sprinkle a little salt on it as you bite juicy bits off! When cooked, the juicy flesh makes perfect syrups that are tasty and not tart in the least.

Compared to green zebra, the black one tastes a bit sweeter and richer.

Image credits (edits: Gaspard Lorthiois): CC BY 2.0: Jean Weber, F__A