LONDON: A new breed of black tomatoes which have the potential to keep cancer at bay has been grown for the first time in the UK.

The jet-black fruit is among the first in the world to contain anthocyanins, an anti-oxidant thought to have a number of health benefits including helping to battle the killer cell disease.

Its unusual colour stems from pigments in the skin which develop when exposed to sunlight.

Ray Brown, 66, who runs Plant World Seeds, first came across the unusual fruit when a customer sent him a mystery package entitled ‘black tomato’.

Confused by the enigmatic the label, he sowed the product and was stunned at the resulting black tomotoes which appeared.

Mr Brown, from Newton Abbot, Devon, said: ‘A customer sent us some seeds just named ‘black tomato’ last winter and we couldn’t believe that they were real so we sowed them in the spring to see.

‘We are always looking for something original. Nobody has every 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 Fool’s Day 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.’ The tomatoes are believed to have been developed at Oregon State University, in America, forming part of their ‘Indigo Rose’ project.–DM