Photo by Melody

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherry...Tomatoes!

By Jill M. Nicolaus (critterologistJuly 24, 2008
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Do you like the little pint containers of grape or cherry tomatoes in the grocery store? They’re easy to grow, and they’re even tastier fresh off the vine. They come in a rainbow of colors, too!

Gardening pictureAs a kid, I had to have a cherry tomato in my garden, probably because it gave me bragging rights. "How many tomatoes did you pick today, Mom? I got 107!" They were fun to add to salads and to string on kebab skewers. And as garden snacks go, it's hard to beat a sun-warm, ripe cherry tomato popped right into your mouth.

Most "cherry" varieties are great producers, and one or two plants will probably give you all the little tomatoes you care to pick. With all the different varieties, I have a very hard time narrowing down my choices at seed starting time. Everybody has favorites to recommend, and there are so many fun and tasty-sounding names to consider.

Last year, I ended up with over a dozen different varieties. I made a special cherry tomato patch at one end of our little orchard, and told the neighbors to help themselves. The birds and bunnies helped themselves, too! And we all got to sample a lot of different tomatoes.

ripening cluster of fruit on branch of 'Black Cherry' tomato plantThis year, I was a little more restrained, but I still had a lot of plants to find room for. I love having a rainbow selection of red, orange, yellow, and black varieties. At least one grape-shaped variety is a must, as are tiny, intensely flavored currant tomatoes. Let me introduce you to some of my favorites.

‘Dr. Carolyn' is an ivory colored cherry tomato that ripens to a delicious golden color. I have a friend who grows over a hundred tomato varieties each year, and this is the only cherry tomato she wants in her garden.

‘SunGold' is a hybrid yellow cherry that takes first prize as the sweetest tomato I've ever tasted. People either love them "like candy" or hate them for not "tasting like a real tomato." When fully ripe, they're almost orange.

‘Black Cherry' has the same sweet, complex flavor as some of the full-size black tomatoes. Its rich burgundy hue is a special accent. This one doesn't seem to be as productive as some and can be a little hesitant about germinating, so sow a few extra seeds.

‘Elfin' and ‘Sprite' grape tomatoes are both determinate red varieties that are wonderful for containers. I grow these every year, as grape tomatoes are the ones people most often ask me for when I mention that I have extra seedlings.


cluster of tiny 'Wild Cherry' tomatoes rambling amid other plants‘Wild Cherry' is a tiny currant-type tomato with wonderfully intense flavor. I want these in my garden every year. Thanks to their habit of self-sowing, that's easy! I've heard these may be particularly good cross-pollinators, so I've planted them away from my main tomato garden area.

‘Green Grape' is a tasty novelty and a good introduction to green-when-ripe tomatoes. It takes a little practice to learn the feel of a ripe one, the slight "give" that tells you their mild, sweet flavor has reached its peak.

'Tumbling Tom' is my favorite variety for baskets and containers. It comes in both yellow and red colors, and it has the best "true tomato flavor" of any cherry variety I know. I've yet to start too many seedlings of this variety, as I can always find a good nook for one more plant.

'Sweet Million' is one among hundreds of varieties of round, red tomatoes. Everybody seems to have a favorite red cherry, and I've tried a bunch of them. Many are excellent, but I'm not sure there are any I like better than this old standby, an improved strain of my childhood classic ‘Sweet 1000'.

Growing Cherry Tomatoes

If you're starting them from seed, consider starting cherry varieties only 6 weeks before setting them out (as opposed to 8 weeks for other types). They tend to germinate quickly and grow enthusiastically under lights.

closeup look at assorted cherry tomatoes from the thumbnail photoCherry tomatoes grow equally well in the ground or in containers. Indeterminate varieties, whose vines keep growing longer until frost, may need support. I often let them sprawl and meander around the edge of a perennial bed. They may not produce as well that way as if they were caged, but they still provide all the little tomatoes I care to pick (and then some). Like larger-fruited tomatoes, cherry tomatoes will do best in containers of at least 5 gallons in size.

If your sunshine is a little skimpy for regular tomatoes, try cherry tomatoes. As a group, they seem tough, and they'll produce despite all sorts of adverse conditions. Currant tomatoes do particularly well in partial shade. In a partly shaded spot, you may get no fruit at all from a beefsteak tomato, but you can still harvest fruit by the handful from a cherry tomato plant.

Whether you grow a single plant of ‘Sweet Million' or a rainbow collection of a dozen different varieties, I hope you'll save a corner of your garden for fun, delicious cherry tomatoes!

Thanks to David_Paul for the great photo of 'Black Cherry' from PF. Other photos by Jill Nicolaus.


  About Jill M. Nicolaus  
Jill M. NicolausBetter known as "Critter" on DG, Jill lives in Frederick, MD, where she tries to fit as many plants as possible into a suburban back yard. The birds are mobbing our feeders lately, so Sunshine Girl and I have a job keeping the Flyby Cafe' open for business! This year, we put out a special feeder just for the squirrels, filled with a seed & corn blend. We still see them acrobatically snatching food from the other feeders, but at least now they let the birds get a beak in edgewise! (Images in my articles are from my photos, unless otherwise credited.)

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
do cherry tomatoes need to have support? jimsilva 1 10 Nov 19, 2009 12:41 AM
growing Chelsea cherry tomatoes? jimsilva 1 6 Nov 19, 2009 12:40 AM
Red Pear Tomato gaonmymine 1 8 Jul 19, 2009 5:58 PM
Cherry tomatoes-comments of 'Critter'. mundrome 1 12 Dec 7, 2008 9:10 PM
Great article Critter!! stormyla 8 24 Aug 20, 2008 5:10 AM
cool! (they squirt nicely too) pejiduta8 4 24 Jul 29, 2008 4:22 PM
Black Cherry Tomatoes Annepaola 1 27 Jul 28, 2008 10:22 PM
Thanks for the list! edelseu 1 8 Jul 28, 2008 10:20 PM
You named almost all of mine! Bookerc1 0 15 Jul 27, 2008 8:24 PM
Thank-You TwinLakesChef 2 15 Jul 25, 2008 12:50 PM
Bravo! jordankittyjo 6 38 Jul 25, 2008 4:07 AM
Excellent info. dasiavue 1 13 Jul 25, 2008 3:22 AM
Loved it! celia 2 16 Jul 25, 2008 3:21 AM
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