Forget what you’ve heard about midnight in Paris. It’s all about the glamour of midnight in Roma.
This new type of tomato has been stealing the show wherever it debuts, and even all the splendor of the City of Light—and all the culinary knowhow in France—can’t match up to its star power in the kitchen, or on the menu.
What Are Midnight Roma Tomatoes
When most people think of tomatoes, they immediately start seeing red. (Except for those salsa verde fans. We see you!)
But Midnight Roma tomatoes don’t bare the classic brash shade or even that second-most-popular hue. Indeed, to color in these creations, you’ll have to travel all the way to the other end of the rainbow.
Midnight Romas come in a stunning shade of deep, dark violet as a rule. It’s where their moniker actually comes from, in an attempt to capture the fruit’s velvety pallet.
The gorgeous addition to the tomato family was borne of a breed called the Indigo Rose, which happened to be the first-ever deep-purple example of the fruit outside of odd heirloom offspring, which favor purple skin only through the accident of random genetic jumbling.
Upon its 2011 debut, the Indigo Rose was polarizing, with tomato lovers passionately split on their feelings for the plant. Chief among the naysayer’s complaints was that the plant’s color made determining its ripeness too difficult – and many people accidentally tried Indigo Rose for the first time long before it was actually ready to eat, leaving them with an even worse tase in their mouths.
But 10 years later, the Rose’s offspring has received much greater praise, with Midnight Romas noted for their rich flavor and meaty slicability – and not to mention, a more regular maturing schedule.
Yet, for horticultural fans, none of these developments should come as a surprise.
Where are Midnight Roma Tomatoes From
While Italy is accustomed to setting worldwide trends in all things fashion, this particularly flashy fruit got its start in the unsuspecting United States – and in an even less likely corner of it to boot, officially hailing from Corvallis, Oregon, the home of Oregon State University (OSU).
But OSU has long been riding the tomato zeitgeist. Indeed, the university is also responsible for developing both of Midnight Roma’s parents, including the Indigo Rose and a big, beefy tomato called the Oregon Star, which is particularly noted for its heft and flesh.
Playing matchmaker in this situation was OSU horticulture professor Jim Myers, who also helped develop the Indigo Rose. (Just call him the Father of the purple tomato movement.)
Rather than looking for lightning to strike twice, however, Myers was attempting a bit more of a redesign for his second draft of the color purple. Mostly, he wanted to focus on making the Midnight more resistant to common diseases, while also working to beef up its body while subtracting seeds from its fleshy interior, giving people more chances to eat even more meat of this delicious treat.
Yet those aren’t the only ways the Midnight Roma stands out.
Midnight Roma Tomatoes vs. Red Roma Tomatoes
Aside from their fleshier bodies, less seedy insides, and stronger resistance to disease, there are a number of differences between the Midnight Roma and regular red Roma tomatoes – which have been a staple of Mediterranean menus for centuries.
When it comes to the Midnight Roma, it turns out, much of the beauty really is skin deep.
That dark purple color is actually the product of a number of phytonutrients called flavonoids. These chemical compounds are found in any number of plants, and responsible for carrying different colors to the fore.
Once inside the human body, however, they offer much more than aesthetics. Most flavonoids react to our chemical compositions as antioxidants, which help our bodies deal with the signs of stress. And the antioxidant properties of the Midnight Roma tomato are especially powerful.
Specifically, they’re called anthocyanins, the same type of health-boosting compounds found in the indigo skin of blueberries. And while Roma tomatoes are also packed with health benefits—including a number of antioxidants—Midnight Roma tomatoes simply kick that perk up a notch.
Still, it’s important to note that the antioxidant power of the tomato—red Roma, Midnight Roma, or otherwise—is primarily found in the skin, so in order to reap all the benefits, the skin must be included in the final version of the dish.
And, in both varieties of tomato, sunlight is crucial for developing the rich hue, and all its supporting flavonoids. So if you’re lucky enough to be planting a Midnight Roma, a red Roma, or any other variety, make sure you show those beauties off as much as possible.