Japanese Black Trifele Tomato: Hanna’s Tomato Tastings 2008

Part of Hanna’s Tomato Tastings 2008

Japanese Black Trifele TomatoSo I bought this tomato because I thought, “Gee, how cool, a Japanese tomato.” Stupid me. Despite all evidence to the contrary (mainly the NAME), this tomato is actually a Russian tomato.

No one is quite sure why they named this a Japanese tomato, though some suspect that it was an attempt to bring a certain amount of sophistication to the table. I guess Yu-Gi-Oh has a whole different meaning in the Eastern Block than it does here.

The description from the company I got it from reads:

Attractive tomatoes are the shape and size of a Bartlett pear with a beautiful purplish-brick color; the fruit are perfect and smooth with no cracks. The flavor is absolutely sublime, having all the richness of fine chocolate. This was our heaviest producer for 2004. The plants produced loads of fruit all summer long. It has become a favorite with many seed savers and we are glad to be able to offer such a colorful variety.

The Beauty Pageant:

Size: The largest so far is the large one in the picture and is a little bigger than the palm of my hand. They seem to grow like nesting dolls with the one near the branch being the largest with the ones at the end of the stem being about the size of cherry tomatoes.

Shape: Pear shaped and shapely. Smooth with no outside issues.

The inside: Tight, central core with two cambers. Rather thick walls for a tomato this size. Gel is tight .

Texture: Very soft and silky. Smooth. The skin is a little thick, which is a bit distracting.


Off the Vine Tasting: It has that rich flavor that I love about black tomatoes. It is almost smoky and is reminiscent of a beef flavor with the tomato flavor. The skin provides just a little bit of sourness.

Sliced and Salted Tasting: Salt does not really do this tomato any favors. That smoky flavor is still there, but it is downplayed and there is no other flavor that steps up to the plate to replace it.

Cooking Thoughts: I personally think this would make a great sauce, but it would be equally good served as a side dish, in a salad or on a sandwich. I don’t think you would want to use it for salsa as it has a flavor that is a bit different than someone might be use to from a typical tomato.

Growing Notes:
This is a nice productive plant. Healthy and going strong.

Will Hanna grow this one again:
Yes. I love these kinds of tomatoes. Black tomatoes are the panacea of tomato flavor for me and this black tomato has that flavor nailed.

24 thoughts on “Japanese Black Trifele Tomato: Hanna’s Tomato Tastings 2008
  1. I love black tomatoes and this sounds like a good one. I recently came across a seed company in the UK that makes a specialty of black tomatoes – they claim that all black tomatoes originated in the Ukraine. Don’t know the facts on this, but the web site appears authoritative.


  2. I’ll have to try to grow this one or another black kind next year. I love interesting looking tomatoes.


  3. I love black tomatoes too but haven’t had a lot of production from my Black Krims. I’ll have to try this Japanese Russian Tomato next season.


  4. Kristin on


    If these are the same ones that you sent me, I totally agree! I think they were the best ones. So delicous that I ate both of them sliced with out even stoping put them on a sandwich or anything.



  5. Hello,

    I’m in my third year of growing heirlooms. Haven’t tried but one on your list (are they all heirlooms?), ‘Hillbilly’ and loved it. I’m wondering about your growing environment and how much space you use for growing so many different tomatoes.

    Also, how does one become an official tomato taster?


  6. John on

    Hello Hanna,

    So do you think this tomato would grow in a container ? And while we are on the subject of questions… how is the mystery match up going… how many tomato varieties from this years lost label crop still need to be identified ?

    Will there be a mystery match up final elimination round ?

    I guess I will just have to stay tuned and decide which heirloom or two goes to pot !


    Debbie Reply:

    I grew this plant in a container. I planted it very deep and it grew very tall. It got cold here in Florida so I had to pick the tomatoes green; but they ripened on my counter and were delicious. I am starting over now with seeds from that crop. I just germinated them and put them out in the sun today. I’m looking foreward to more japanese black!


  7. I grew this tomato this season. It truly grows a beautiful plant, not to large and has rather airy, symmetrical leaves. Tastes I also found to be good but the fruit is on the small side and I have yet to have one ripen to a rich dark color. Not sure why they are not turning as dark as yours.
    Check out my veggie garden blog:


  8. I love talking about the details of plants.. not just plant basics.. Some of the best images of plants and fruits that I have seen are on http://www.OnMyGreenThumb.blogspot.com. Check it out. They also offer free plants for the different plants that they describe and showcase. It’s perfect for new gardners and landscapers. I steal their ideas all the time! 😉


  9. Barry on

    Sounds a little small, but my wife and I are always interested in black tomatoes. I suspect we’ll give this one a try next spring. Thanks for the review!


  10. Hanna on

    entangled – What is the URL? That sounds like an awesome site.

    Susy – There are many interesting tomatoes. It is fun to try so may.

    Anthony – This has been a very productive plant. I hae been very pleased with it.

    Kristin – This is the same tomato. I am glad you enjoyed it. It is great!

    TC – Most are heirlooms, but not all. I am just interested in finding great tomatoes, but many are from the hierlooms set.

    As far as being an “official” tomato taster, the only thing you need to do is share your honest opinions on your blog (or this one). I started because I was frustrated by the lack of real info about tomatoes. The more people who post what they think, the more we really know about them.

    John – This one will go ok in containers. Like any tomatoes, it will need support, but will do well.

    Matching is going so-so. Some are obvious (like this one) while others not so much. I only review if I am 100% sure, so we will see…

    Lakshmi – Thanks!

    FlagAddict – Lovely link drop. Thanks for pretending to be interested.

    dan – The color depends on the soil compositon. Last year, some of my “blacks” were not black at all. With almost any of your colored tomatoes, the end color result varies with the soil, weather and water.

    dr greenthumb – Another lovely link drop. I am not as impressed as you did not even pretend to be interested in the topic at hand.

    Barry – It is on the small side, but I have to say that historically I have found smaller blacks better than bigger ones. But, I still have a few to try this year, so we will see.


  11. Annapet on

    Thanks for blogging about your Tomato Tastings. JBT is indeed a wonderful tomato and has become my favorite, favoring over the well-regarded Black Krim at least here in my garden, in Corte Madera, CA growing conditions!


  12. I saw this tomato this spring as a starter plant at my farmers market. Sounded interesting and being an heirloom I gave it a try. I have been very pleased with it. Growth started a little slow but then grew to a very nice size. I have gotten about 10 ripe so far and they taste wonderful. Friends marvel at its color and flavor. I will save seeds for next year…This baby is a keeper!


  13. Kitty Parmley on

    I was searching for info about this amazing tomato that has showed up from one grower at the Carrboro (NC) Farmers’ Market and your post was at the top of my Google Search Page. How fortunate for me. 🙂 My husband and I first “discovered” purple tomatoes last summer when Cherokee purples were available at farmers’ markets in the area and fell in love, so we were pleased to try the Black Trifele when it showed up. It has become a favorite, though we have to get there early or they run out. The size means that it isn’t a one-slice-makes-a-sandwich tomato, but the flavor is so good we use is as much as possible whenever raw tomatoes are called for. I don’t grow from seeds very well, (just not in my skill set) but I’m tempted to try these next year.


  14. Linda on

    I think Japanese Trifele Black tastes like a sage plant was growing next to it–very different. I liked it better the first year than I did the second and haven’t grown it since.

    I LOVE black tomatoes and have decided that Amazon Chocolate is the best in my area. May be lousy elsewhere. It is available at Marianna’s and Diane’s Flower Seeds.


  15. Michele on

    I am trying the Japanese Black Trifele in a topsy turvy planter (upside down). I am a newbie with growing tomatoes. I have never eaten a black tomato before, but judging from the comments above I can’t wait to try them. Can I harvest the seeds for next year?


    Hanna Reply:

    Enjoy! Yes, you can save the seeds. They will grow true.


  16. Matthew on

    I just ordered the black trifele and san marzano 3. I bought enough seeds so that I could save and start true originals next year again, as I grow many varieties and would be worried about cross polination. But I plan on crossing the black trifele and the san marzano 3. I think that this would be a great cross. Anyone else have a comment or knowledge I could use.


  17. Mary Wilson on

    I got this tomato plant in PNW as Japanese Black Truffle! It’s growing really well in container; lots of unripe fruit of different sizes. I came across this site looking for information on how to tell when it is ripe. Thanks for the information and photos.


  18. livinonfaith on

    As always, I appear to be late to the party, but thought I would throw in my two cents.

    I grew this tomato in 2011 in central NC. (zone 7, but bordering on zone 8) It was a terrible year for tomatoes for me due to several disease, critter, and soil problems, so I didn’t get as many of these as I would have liked.

    It did perform better than most of the other 11 varieties that I had and the taste was really just wonderful, rich and meaty. Even my 14 year old son commented on these. What I wanted to add was that these held up beautifully on the counter. (and they are gorgeous) Some of mine lasted over two weeks with no reduction in texture or flavor.

    I’m hooked!


  19. I grew this tomato on the recommendation from someone else who is an avid tomato grower. Best recommendation anyone has ever given me on a tomato. What I love about this tomato is how savory it is. It makes a fantastic homemade pasta sauce. I will definitely grow this one again next year.


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