A TIVERTON pensioner believes he is among the first in the country to grow black tomatoes, an unusual fruit which could have the potential to stave off cancer.
Leslie Manvill, 82, from Branscombe Road, claims he was cultivating yields long before a South Devon nursery which recently hit national headlines with the feat.
Black tomatoes are believed to have been developed at Oregon State University, in America, and are the first in the world to contain anthocyanins, an antioxidant thought to have a number of health benefits.
Mr Manvill saw an article in the Gazette’s sister paper, the Western Morning News, about Ray Brown’s Plant World Seeds, Newton Abbot, which is thought to be the first nursery to grow the fruit.
He said: “When I saw the article I thought, ‘he’s not the first in the country, by a long way’.
“My friends went abroad and brought me back some black tomatoes and said, ‘we haven’t seen anything like this before, have you’? I said ‘no’, and I tasted them and kept back some of the seeds, and that’s how I started to grow them.
“Two years ago they went, and I’ve been growing them ever since. They are easier to grow outdoors than in and all my neighbours around here have had them and they really enjoy them. They are very, very rare and have never been grown in this country before.
“If you looked at our table it was absolutely full of black and red tomatoes, but I’d rather give them away than let them rot. I kept back some of the seeds and I did that with watermelons, and I was left with a beautiful amount.”
Mr Manvill said he had around eight plants and a crop of up to 50 jet black tomatoes, which he gave away to friends and neighbours.
But Mr Brown first came across the unusual fruit when a customer sent him a package labelled “black tomato”.
Disbelieving the label, he sowed the product and was stunned by the outcome.
He said “Nobody has ever produced black tomatoes, the closest they have got are brown ones and orange ones. It was always something people thought was impossible, we thought it was an April 1 hoax.
“But when we grew them we realised they were jet black, we were absolutely staggered.
“They are completely new, as far as I’m aware they have never, ever been grown in this country before.”
Mr Brown has three plants, each containing 20 tomatoes which have black skins but are red on the inside.
“They are edible, we’ve eaten lots, they have a nice taste and a really lovely flavour,” he said.
WATCH: A pensioner from Tiverton stakes claim to Britain's first black tomatoes