Originating in Russia and named in honour of the great social activist, opera singer, star athlete, and actor Paul Robeson, whose artistry was admired world-wide, especially in the Soviet Union.
Paul Robeson is a black beefsteak tomato that is slightly flattened. A gorgeous tomato with beautiful dark mahogany colouring, dark-green shoulders and dense red flesh. Often described as dense, creamy, sweet, smoky and exotic in taste, it has the rich flavours and good acid/sweet balance associated with many Russian tomatoes.
Paul Robeson, also known as Pol Robeson originates from Siberia. It is the tomato of choice for many market farmers as it has the ability to set fruit in cooler weather and is high yielding in less than optimal conditions. An added bonus is that it rarely cracks and is blemish free.
Growing to around 8 to 10cm (3 to 4in) wide. It is an indeterminate variety that will mature around 75 days from transplant.
It is so tasty that one might be justified in giving up all other tomatoes. We won't go that far, but it is very nice to be able to grow this class of tomato in our cool climate.
As they cannot tolerate any degree of frost the timing for sowing and planting outside is key to successfully growing tomatoes. Where the seeds are sown under cover or indoors, aim to sow the seeds so that they reach the stage to be transplanted outside three weeks after the last frost date. Tomato plants take roughly seven weeks from sowing to reach the transplanting stage. For example, if your last frost date is early May, the seeds should be planted in early April to allow transplanting at the end of May.
Tomatoes require a full sun position. Two or three weeks before planting, dig the soil over and incorporate as much organic matter as possible.
The best soil used for containers is half potting compost and half a soil-based type loam: this gives some weight to the soil.
Plant about 3mm (1/8in) deep, in small pots using seed starting compost. Water lightly and keep consistently moist until germination occurs. Tomato seeds usually germinate within 5 to 10 days when kept in the optimum temperature range of 21 to 27°C (70 to 80°F). As soon as they emerge, place them in a location that receives a lot of light and a cooler temperature (60 to 70°F); a south-facing window should work.
When the plants develop their first true leaves, and before they become root bound, they should be transplanted into larger into 20cm (4in) pots. Young plants are very tender and susceptible to frost damage, as well as sunburn. I protect my young plants by placing a large plastic milk jug, with the bottom removed, to form a miniature greenhouse.
Depending on the components of your compost, you may need to begin fertilising. If you do fertilise, do it very, very sparingly with a weak dilution. Transplant into their final positions when they are about 15cm (6in) high. Two to three weeks prior to this, the plants should be hardened off.
Just before transplanting the tomato plants to their final position drive a strong stake into the ground 5cm (2in) from the planting position. The stake should be at least 30cm (1ft) deep in the ground and 1.2m (4ft) above ground level - the further into the ground the better the support. As the plant grows, tie in the main stem to the support stake - check previous ties to ensure that they do not cut into the stem as the plant grows. Dig a hole 45cm (18in) apart in the bed to the same depth as the pot and water if conditions are at all dry. Ease the plant out of the pot, keeping the root ball as undisturbed as far as possible. Place it in the hole and fill around the plant with soil. The soil should be a little higher than it was in the pot. Loosely tie the plant's stem to the support stake using soft garden twine –allow some slack for future growth.
A constant supply of moisture is essential, dry periods significantly increase the risk of the fruit splitting. Feed with a liquid tomato fertiliser (high in potash) starting when the first fruits start to form, and every two or three weeks up to the end of August. In September, feed with a general fertiliser (higher in nitrogen) in order to help the plant support it's foliage. Over watering may help to produce larger fruit, but flavour may be reduced. Additionally, splitting and cracking can result from uneven and excessive watering.
When the first fruits begin to form, pinch out the side shoots between the main stem. Also remove lower leaves which show any signs of yellowing to avoid infection.
Pick as soon as the fruits are ripe, this also encourages the production of more fruit. Harvest all the fruit as soon as frost threatens and ripen on a window sill.
Black tomatoes originated in the Ukraine and Russia. In the early 19th century, soldiers leaving the Crimea to return home took with them seeds of these tomatoes, which began their spread into new territories.
Tomato seeds for this Siberian heirloom were made available by Marina Danilenko, a Moscow seeds woman. This favorite heirloom tomato was named after the operatic artist who won acclaim as an advocate of equal rights for Blacks whose artistry was admired world-wide, especially in the Soviet Union.
Paul Robeson (1898 -1976):
Paul Robeson was an American concert singer (bass), recording artist, actor, athlete, and scholar who was an advocate for the Civil Rights Movement in the first half of the 20th century. He gained international attention for his work in the arts and he merged his artistic career with political activism to speak out for the equality of minorities and the rights of workers throughout the world.
Paul Leroy Robeson was born in Princeton in 1898, to Reverend William Drew Robeson and Maria Louisa Bustill. Maria was from a prominent, black, Quaker family of mixed ancestry. William was born a slave but escaped from a plantation in his teens.
Robeson's academic achievements for his time were extraordinary, but his propitious accomplishments in the meritocratic realm of collegiate sports, where African Americans had been denied an opportunity, resulted in accolades in the large dailies thus evincing, at the turn of the century, that African Americans could not only compete, but could excel, and furthermore, given such an equal opportunity in social, political, or education settings, an analogous outcome was accessible.
Robeson's rendition of the spirituals, Carl Sandburg described, was a triumph in its revelation of its feelings, as he unabashedly desired to put asunder the notion that African Americans should neglect their cultural heritage.
Robeson was one of the first African American singer-activists. He was also one of the forerunners of the civil rights movement and the first black artist to refuse segregated audiences. On the international political scene, Robeson's legacy included influences on the African Independence movements and his work was cited by Nelson Mandela and other post-colonialist, world leaders In the arts, James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte have cited his lead film roles as being the first to display dignity for black actors and pride in African heritage.
In films such as Jericho and Proud Valley, he portrayed strong black American male leading roles without the subservience typical of roles for blacks at the time. While film industry figures and historians have written of his groundbreaking work in cinema as the first major black actor unwilling to play stereotypes. Robeson's was important in the labor movement where he was awarded honorary memberships in trade unions.
His friendship with the Soviet Union USSR and the Soviet peoples plus criticism of the lack of progress in civil rights in the United States at the outset of the Cold War and during the age of McCarthyism brought scrutiny, conflict and retribution from the American government.
The first Paul Robeson Archive was established in East Berlin at the John F. Kennedy School. The Robeson Family Archives are deposited at Howard University. In 2010 Susan Robeson launched a project by Swansea University and the Welsh Assembly, to create an online learning resource in her grandfather's memory.
While a consensus definition of Robeson's legacy has been debated about Robeson personified a defiant caveat:
"The artist must take sides. He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative."
- Additional Information
Packet Size 20 Seeds Common Name Beefsteak Tomato. Heritage (Russia),
Vine / Cordon (Indeterminate)
Family Solanaceae Genus Lycopersicon Species esculentum Cultivar Paul Robeson Synonym Pol Robeson Hardiness Half Hardy Annual Fruit Black. 0.5 kg to 0.7 kg (1 to 1.5 lbs) Height 150cm (60in) Spacing 60cm (24in) Season Mid-Season Time to Sow Sow early indoors from early April to the end of May Time to Harvest 80 Days