Are rainbow tomatoes real? As a gardener who also loves cooking, I’m always on the lookout for interesting new additions to my collection of home-grown fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes are my favorite for a few reasons.
For starters, they’re quite versatile. You can chop them up and put them in a salad or mash them to make a fresh sauce for your pasta. What if pasta is not your thing? Just slice them up for a quick and easy side dish. They’re also relatively easy to grow both outdoors — if you’re lucky enough to have a garden — or in your apartment.
While researching what to plant this spring, I came across an ad for a most unusual product: a rainbow tomato. I’d never heard of this mysterious plant before, so I asked myself: Are rainbow tomatoes real?
Are Rainbow Tomatoes Real?
Some claim the elusive rainbow tomato is a long-lost variety that was recently rediscovered. Hence, they’re willing to share its secrets with you — for a price, of course. These bad boys are usually twice the price of regular tomatoes. Now, others may opt for a more “modern” illusion instead. They’ll spin tales of some world-renowned scientists you’ve never heard of who successfully engineered a next-generation type of tomato.
Just imagine: a tall tomato plant with plump, delicious-looking fruit of all colors — pink, blue, orange, maybe even black. The so-called rainbow tomato sounds too good to be true… and, as is usually the case, it is. So before you jump the gun and buy those magic seeds, read on to find out what you might be getting.
Are Rainbow Tomatoes a Scam?
Like I said, as fantastic as rainbow tomatoes sound, they do not exist. “Then what about that picture?” you might ask. Unfortunately, all images of unnaturally colored tomatoes are as fake as they are pretty. If you find yourself tempted by a tomato advertised with an image such as this one, don’t buy it.
Or maybe you’re impatient like me, have already bought the seeds, and are now wondering what they really are. In the best-case scenario, they’re just plain old regular tomatoes. If they came from a semi-reputable (albeit dishonest) source, you might actually get tomatoes that aren’t the usual red color.
There are green, yellow, or even purple tomatoes, for example. While those can technically be considered “rainbow colors,” you won’t be getting anything as exciting as the full spectrum on a single plant.
It’s also possible you were sold Big Rainbow Heirloom tomatoes. Unlike the name implies, they’re mostly just a mix of yellow, orange, and red tomatoes that taste just like any other. The Rainbow Blend is another option you could have easily fallen for. It includes a variety of different seeds, but you still won’t be getting multiple colors on the same plant.
If you’re particularly unlucky, you might have unknowingly bought seeds that will produce some invasive species. I know that the idea of someone trying to sabotage your garden by selling you weeds is far-fetched. However, many sellers rely on a one-and-done deal.
They’ll show you carefully photoshopped pictures while trying to convince you you’re buying the most delicious tomatoes in existence. And by the time you plant them and wait for them to grow and produce fruit, the seller will be long gone, and you’re unlikely ever to get a refund.
Real ‘Rainbow’ Tomatoes
Now that we’ve established that the exotic tomato plant with multi-colored fruit is, in fact, a myth, let’s go over the actual products advertised as “rainbow tomatoes” in more detail. Being familiar with the more uncommon varieties will help you avoid falling for this kind of marketing ploy. Aside from that, it will also save you some disappointment later on.
Rainbow Heirloom Mix
As I mentioned previously, there is a “legitimate” rainbow tomato variety — the Rainbow Heirloom blend. And while it is undoubtedly pretty, the colors of this mix aren’t as exciting as the “rainbow” label might suggest. The mix usually contains red tomatoes of the Bonny Best variety, as well as pink (Brandywine Pink), green (Evergreen), yellow (Golden Sunburst), and purple (Black Krim) tomatoes. A colorful addition to any garden, but don’t be fooled — different colored fruit won’t grow on the same plant.
Big Rainbow tomatoes are another misleading option. They’re relatively common, and you might have even bought seeds of this variety without realizing when shopping for regular tomatoes. And while the red and yellow spots on their skin do fulfill the promise of multiple colors on the same plant — the same fruit, even — they still don’t quite cover the full spectrum of the rainbow.
Blue (Or Purple) Tomatoes
These tomatoes are probably as close to the full-color spectrum as you’ll get. These so-called blue tomatoes have been bred specifically to produce larger quantities of anthocyanins. That is the same blue pigment responsible for blueberries’ color. You might have encountered these tomatoes under names like SunBlack or Indigo Rose, but the most visually impressive variety is probably the Israeli Black Galaxy.
There are, of course, other multi-colored tomatoes. Purple Bumblebee, Blue Bayou, even Dancing with Smurfs — this list is by no means exhaustive. No plant, however, no matter how exotic its name may sound, will ever grow fruits spanning the full-color spectrum.
The reason for that is simple. All tomatoes — even just plain red ones — have evolved (or have been bred) to adapt to specific lighting conditions. As there’s no way for different parts of the same plant to exist under drastically different lighting (at least not naturally), it makes sense that its fruits won’t differ in color too much, either.
Gardeners and culinarians alike would agree that tomatoes are outstanding. They’re easy to grow and don’t require any special care. All you need to do is make sure they get enough sunlight and remember to water them once in a while, and you’ll never lack fresh salad.
Tomatoes are also an extremely common species. You can find tomato seeds at virtually any garden shop or even harvest them yourself from a freshly-cut tomato. Just plant them within seven days from removal (to avoid contamination), and you won’t even have to make the trip to the garden shop!
This ease of access to all sorts of seeds is unfortunate for sellers. It is also the reason many of them resort to making up nonexistent varieties — such as rainbow tomatoes — to entice buyers. Now, even though you probably won’t remember all of the tomato types we’ve listed, make sure not to forget one thing! The answer to the question are rainbow tomatoes real is no, and that’s what you should tell everyone trying to sell you some.