I've often thought that if I could only plant one tomato plant, and I wanted that plant to keep me in slicing tomatoes for the whole season, the variety I would choose was Celebrity. Now I know, if I could only plant one tomato plant, and I wanted that plant to keep me in slicing tomatoes for the whole season, but I wanted that plant to be an heirloom, and not a hybrid, the variety I would choose would be Paul Robeson.
I purchased this plant from my friend Mickey because I've been looking for a "black" variety that would do well in my garden. I enjoyed the Black Krims. The Black Cherry left me disappointed. The Cherokee Purple was a disaster. Black from Tula was on my list to try, but Paul Robeson came along before I got there.
Like most "black" tomatoes, Paul Robeson isn't truly black, but a very very deep dark red with a good deal of green shading. In real life, the color can best be described as glazed terracotta, deep and earthy and well oiled like old leather.
The fruit are shapely, compact, sandwich sized, and... well... there are a lot of them. This one plant has kept me in slicing tomatoes, BLTs and fried green tomatoes since it began producing. I seriously do not need any other plants this year. I'm giving away the Brandywines!
Similar to the Krims, they have a complex, almost smokey taste which is a natural pairing for bacon in a BLT. The skin is resilient. You aren't getting through this tomato with an unserrated knife, it will, honestly, deflect it. The upside to this is that while there can be a considerable amount of shoulder cracking, this variety has not split in the rain as many more delicate, thin skinned varieties do.
The interior structure is similar to a Brandywine but it does have a core. Not a coarse woody core like a "Pineapple" but a deep, crimson core which is unlike any I've ever seen. So, who was it's namesake?
Like many heirloom varieties, the story is part of the intrigue. Paul Robeson was a renaissance man. Athlete, singer, political activist. He was the first black All-American (1917-1918). He graduated from Columbia Law School while playing in the NFL. A celebrated actor in both America and England, he became a political activist and traveled the world acting and speaking. He spent a great deal of time in the Soviet Union and was so beloved there that the tomato was named for him there before it was imported to, and gained popularity here in the states.