Growing food | Homestead

Black Krim vs. Cherokee Purple (Compared)

Black Krim and Cherokee Purple are both different varieties of tomatoes. They are both quite dark-colored, large, and very tasty. While there are a number of similarities between the two varieties, there are also some notable differences that we’re going to discuss.

The most common differences between these two tomato varieties are their appearance and their taste. While Black Krim tomatoes are unevenly shaped with deep ridges, tomatoes of the Cherokee Purple variety are rounder and only have very slight ribs. Similarly, Cherokee Purples have a tangy and smoky flavor, while Black Krims are tart and sweet.

black krim vs cherokee purple
Black Krim vs. Cherokee Purple tomatoes
CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, Cherokee Purple Tomato (CC BY 2.0) by ClizBiz

Characteristics of Black Krim and Cherokee Purple Tomatoes

Here’s a chart to outline the different characteristics of each variety so that you can see the differences and the similarities.

CharacteristicsBlack KrimCherokee Purple
OriginThe Crimea region in UkraineNorth America from the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma
ColorDark red to purple with brown or dark green tops or shouldersDark red with brown or dark green tops or shoulders
ShapeOddly shaped with deep ribsRound with a slightly flat top
Fruit Size8 to 12 ounces (0.23 to 0.34 kg)8 to 16 ounces (0.23 to 0.45 kg)
Skin TextureSlightly firm and toughQuite soft
FlavorRich, tart, and sweetEarthy, tangy, and smoky
Days to Maturity7585

As you can see, the differences between the two varieties are fairly subtle, and for some people, it can be difficult to tell them apart. Especially because the taste only varies in a subtle way.

Looking at the Visual Differences

To help you understand the differences between Black Krim and Cherokee Purple, it’s handy to visually see them side by side.

Both varieties are a rich dark red color and have that distinctive color variation on the shoulder, although this is not quite as apparent on the Black Krim in our image.

You’ll also notice the difference in shape. While the Black Krim is more oblong and has those deep ribs, the Cherokee Purple is much more rounded and only has very faint ribs.

Although the differences are sometimes prominent, this may not always be the case when these varieties are growing in your garden. You might find that your Black Krims are much darker in color and that they may not possess as many prominent ribs. Similarly, your Cherokee Purples may not be quite as smooth and may have developed more prominent ribs.

This is because they are both natural, heirloom varieties, and their characteristics will be determined by the parent plant from which the seeds were harvested. It might be the case that the parent plant was a Black Krim, and there was a Cherokee Purple growing nearby. When this happens, the plants can cross-pollinate, and you can end up with a variety that has some characteristics of each variety.

This is vastly different from hybrid varieties that will show little variation in appearance and one of the reasons that home gardeners love growing heirlooms.

Notable Differences between Black Krim vs. Cherokee Purple

Here’s a breakdown of the most notable differences between these two varieties.


While both tomato varieties have that lovely deep red color, Black Krims tend to be a little darker and can sometimes even appear dark purple or black. They do both have the same brown or green coloring on the shoulder, which does not change as the fruit ripens.

Size and Shape

While both varieties produce large tomatoes suitable for slicing, Cherokee Purple is often a little larger, with some home gardeners reporting fruits that can weigh up to 1 pound (454 grams).

They also vary in shape, although both are slightly oblong with a flattened top. While Black Krims have a more pronounced oblong shape, Cherokee Purples are somewhat rounder. Similarly, Black Krims have deep ribs while Cherokee Purples are smoother with slight ribs that are not as pronounced.


Both varieties have a rich tomato flavor, but Black Krim is much tarter and sweeter, while Cherokee Purple has more of a tangy and smoky flavor. Both varieties are great for slicing for sandwiches.


When cut open, the texture is slightly different between the two varieties, with Black Krim being a little crunchier while Cherokee Purple has a much smoother texture. On the outside, the Black Krims have much firmer and tougher skin when compared to the Cherokee Purples, which have much softer skin.

Common Problems

While both varieties are fairly pest and disease resistant, you will find the Black Krims are more susceptible to damage from sun-scald while Cherokee Purples may be more susceptible to fungal infections early in their growing season.

Similarities between Black Krim and Cherokee Purple Tomatoes

Here are the most notable similarities between the two varieties.

Growth Habit

Both varieties are heirloom ones and have an indeterminate growth habit. This means that they will continue to grow taller throughout the growing season. Therefore, if you’re growing one or both of these varieties, they’ll require heavy-duty staking to keep the vines off the ground.

You can expect both varieties to grow around 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) in height.

Variety Type

Both tomato varieties are regarded as beefsteak tomatoes. This means the fruits are large and perfectly suited for slicing for sandwiches. Both varieties also contain a lot of seeds.

Appearance and Color

Both varieties display a lovely deep red color with distinctive brown or deep green shoulders. When cut open, both have a lovely deep red to almost purple color.

Nutrient Content

Both of these tomato varieties are rich in vitamins A, C, K, and lycopene. They are highly nutritious as well as taste great.

Some History about Black Krim and Cherokee Purple Tomatoes

As already mentioned, these two tomato varieties are heirlooms. This means that they are true varieties that have been grown for many, many years and have not been hybridized. To understand a little more about how special these varieties are, here’s a bit of background on their history.

Black KrimCherokee Purple
This tomato variety originated in Ukraine in the Crimea region. It became available in the United States around 1990 and is believed to be the first commercially available black tomato in the US.This tomato variety is believed to have been cultivated around 100 years ago by a group of gardeners who were lucky enough to be gifted the seeds from a Cherokee tribe. In 1990, some of the seeds were sent to Craig Lehoullier in North Carolina, who tested and cultivated the tomato plants. He later sent the seeds to various seed companies, who then worked to make them available to the public.

About Heirloom Tomatoes

If you haven’t ventured into growing heirloom tomatoes, you may not understand what this means and why these are so eagerly grown by many home gardeners. Here are some interesting facts about heirloom varieties:

  • The seeds have been passed down from generation to generation for many years.
  • All heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated. This means that all the seeds can be collected from the fruit and will grow into new tomato plants.
  • Most heirloom tomatoes will also freely cross-pollinate. This means that if you grow different varieties close together and then collect and plant the seeds, you might end up with a completely new variety.
  • Heirloom tomatoes are available in a range of colors, including yellow, green, red, and purple. The dark red or purple varieties are often referred to as black.
  • They sometimes come in unusual shapes. These ancient tomatoes will come in a range of different shapes and sizes that are very dissimilar to store-bought tomatoes or those that have been hybridized.
  • Most heirloom tomatoes will not be available to buy at the grocery store. This is because their skins are usually much softer, and they bruise far easier. This makes them unviable for commercial production, storage, and handling.
  • Heirloom tomatoes have a short shelf life and generally should be consumed soon after they’ve been picked.
  • The taste of an heirloom tomato is simply out of this world. Because they haven’t been bred to have a long shelf life or artificially ripened, these ancient varieties have a flavor that you won’t get with any store-bought tomatoes.

Which Variety is Better when Comparing Black Krim vs. Cherokee Purple?

There’s no simple answer to this question because it depends entirely on personal preference. The differences between the two varieties are fairly subtle, and some people even find it difficult to taste the variances.

Similarly, expert gardeners are split evenly between which variety they prefer to grow as both require similar growing conditions, and both produce lovely large fruits that can be used in a variety of ways.

If you have the space, why not grow one of each so that you can compare them for yourself? You might find that you prefer one over the other or that you love both equally.

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