Photo and article by Donna Iverson
A small group of tomatoes are named after fruits including cherry tomatoes, plum (Roma) tomatoes and grape tomatoes. But then technically, tomatoes are a fruit.
Grape tomatoes have been around since 1996 when they were first grown in Florida. Today, they outsell cherry tomatoes 10 to 1. They came to America from Taiwan, where they were developed as a hybrid variety. Cherry tomatoes, on the other hand, are native to South America. But they are losing out to grape, which are sweeter, larger, meatier, and can be stored longer.
Recently, I asked a fellow community gardener why she switched from cherry tomatoes to grape tomatoes this summer and she said “because I can just pop them into my mouth.” “But you can do that with cherry tomatoes,” I protested. “I did that last year,” she replied. My takeaway is that grape tomatoes have a lot of novelty appeal.
As well as growing them yourself, you can find them for sale at farmers markets and supermarkets, where their shelf life is longer than cherry tomatoes. Because of their thicker skin, they also ship better without bruising. From time of picking to eating, they remain fresh around five days.
Like all tomatoes, grape tomatoes are highly nutritious with impressive amounts of lycopene, Vitamins A and C. Six bite size tomatoes equal a serving.
If you want to grow them yourself, seedlings should be planted in early June in full sun and in rich soil. Water every two or three days, or daily during a drought. Your grape tomatoes will likely all open at the same time with yields of about 20 to 90 grape tomatoes per plant. Once the diminutive tomatoes appear, they will take 20 to 30 days to ripen.
Like all tomatoes, people with acid reflux, histamine intolerance and kidney stones should limit their daily intact to small amounts.
While red is the most popular color, grape tomatoes come in orange, yellow, brown, and pink. Popular varieties include: Tomato Bronze, Gold Spark, Red Candy, Red Grape and Sweet Hearts.