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Purple through and through: A new GMO tomato that home gardeners can grow

By combining the genes from snap dragons, a new type of genetically-modified cherry tomato grows fruit with a purple hue through and through.
Tatiana Antonenko
By combining the genes from snapdragons, a new type of genetically-modified cherry tomato grows fruit with a purple hue through and through.

"Purple" is a new tomato from the Norfolk Plant Science group in England that has genes from a purple snapdragon flower. That modification gives the tomato its deep purple hue through and through, plus packs in more antioxidants.

Genetically modified, or bioengineered, seeds are most often used in the U.S. for production crops — think field corn, soy and sugar beets. Those crops are then used in foods we consume, like canola oil and granulated sugar.

There are just a handful of vegetable and fruit crops grown from GMO seeds in this country that are available for purchase in grocery stores, like some apples, potatoes and squashes. Though, for the first time, a variety of cherry tomato grown from GMO seeds is available for home gardeners to plant in the 2024 growing season.

"Purple," from the Norfolk Plant Science group in England, is a cherry tomato modified with edible snapdragon genes. Modifying the tomato genes with the flower's in this way increased its anthocyanins — those are the nutrients that provide health benefits like antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables like blueberries and eggplants produce lots of anthocyanins, which gives that purple coloring.

"Purple" has gotten USDA and FDA approval, which signals the tomatoes are safe to consume. Norfolk is selling "Purple" seeds (10 seeds for $20). They've sold over 10,000 seed packets just in the first month of availability.

The difference between "Purple" and the many readily-available purple tomato varieties that already exist for home gardeners is that those heirloom tomatoes grow with purple skins or leaves and stems, but this GMO cherry tomato grows purple in the skin, seeds and flesh of the fruit.

For more traditional, non-GMO varieties of purple tomatoes, try the "Indigo" series, bred out of Oregon State, with 50 different varieties of those to grow in your garden this spring. (Though, if you plant "Purple" this growing season, let All Things Gardening know how they turned out and how they taste!)

What can deter deer from browsing on rhododenrons over the winter?

Q: Regarding rhododendrons, what is your thought about spreading (with a handheld grass-seeder) blood and bone meal around the plants in winter? Have these ideas any merit in discouraging deer browsing on the plants? - Peter in Morrisville

A: Spreading around bloodmeal in particular can ward off deer, though bone meal actually will attract more animals!

Instead of sprinkling those compounds around, try one of the available deer repellents — like Plantskydd, for example.

More from Vermont Public: Protecting trees and shrubs

That deterrent is based on slaughterhouse waste and blood meal, and is tested to be very effective at repelling deer. Try sprinkling some of this product around your rhododendrons and see if that will keep deer at bay.

Q: I'm wondering about the best types of greens - but not microgreens - to grow in the wintertime indoors, in a sunny window or under lights. - Iris, via email

A: The days are getting longer, so you can start thinking about growing greens indoors. If you have a sunny window with at least four hours of direct sun each day, that will ensure the best growth.

Some of the best greens to grow are lamb's lettuce — which is a very mild green — arugula, spinach and some of the winter lettuces like Winter Density. These are varieties that are used to lower light levels and cooler temperatures.

Set them up in trays so you can thin the lettuces out and harvest them as they grow. And if you don't have a sunny window, set up your indoor greens garden under grow lights!

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send us your toughest conundrums and join the fun. Submit your written question via email, or better yet, leave a voicemail with your gardening question so we can use your voice on the air! Call Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Listen to All Things Gardening Sunday mornings at 9:35 a.m., and subscribe to the podcast to listen any time.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.