Welcome to the wide world of cherry tomatoes! There are so many different types and varieties of cherry tomatoes out there, it’s enough to make your palate do backflips. These little fruits are available in just about every color, flavor and shape. Grocery stores typically only offer one or two types, but once you decide to grow them yourself at home, you’ll soon be amazed (if not a little overwhelmed) by all the options available.
Take a deep breath, and let’s take a closer look at what’s out there…
Varieties of Cherry Tomatoes for Containers
Cherry tomatoes can grow either in a container or in the ground. You have to be careful. Just because the fruits are small doesn’t mean that the plant is. Strange but true: the largest tomato plant on record was a cherry tomato plant. So if you’re opting for a container tomato plant, think about growing either a determinate variety or a dwarf variety. Some of these smaller plants will produce well even in smaller containers.
The Tiny Tim variety, for example, is a great option for a small patio or apartment balcony. You can plant the Tiny Tim in a pot as small as 9”. It only grows about a foot and a half tall, plus it does not need to be staked or trellised. The Tiny Tim is also a determinate variety, meaning it will only grow so big, produce all the fruits it’s going to produce at or around the same time, then die back.
Yellow Pygmy is an indeterminate variety that will continue to produce cherry tomatoes all summer long. Again, it is well suited to balconies and small patios. The Yellow Pygmy fruits tend to be more acidic, and not as sweet as other cherry tomatoes. So you can use them like you would larger tomatoes. The plant tends to be more bushy than vining tomato plants. This helps keep the plant more compact – a real space saver. Since it only grows a foot tall it won’t need support from a trellis or stake.
If space is not an issue for you, you can go ahead and select a large container (one that holds three cubic feet of potting soil) and grow a vining variety. Just be sure to give them support !!!
A Rainbow of Cherry Tomatoes
Think all cherry tomatoes are bright red? Think again! There are cherry tomatoes in just about every color. Red, yellow, orange, green (even when ripe), white and black.
Matt’s Wild Cherry is a favorite variety among tomato growers. The fruits are a rich red color and only an inch in diameter. These small, berry-sized fruits are as sweet as sweet can be. They produce well and are best harvested by clipping the entire cluster off all at once. Beware: the plant tends to get bigger and bigger as the months pass. You can eat these little berries as savory deserts, in summer salads, or just by the handful.
Ask any gardener what kind of cherry tomato is in their garden, and they are likely to answer, “Sungold.” These grow well in a wide range of different climates. You can harvest the fruits a week early for a tart flavor, or leave them on the vine a little longer if you want a sweeter flavor. The golden-orange fruits are about one ounce each, and are produced prolifically throughout the summer and fall.
If you go back to those same cherry tomato gardeners and ask them what other kinds of tomatoes they are growing this year, you are just as likely to hear Black Cherry as you are Sungold. These black fruits – well, they are really more of a deep red – are bite-sized and flavorful. They have the same full-bodied flavor as a tomato five times their size. The plants themselves tend to be more forgiving and less prone to disease than other varieties, making them very beginner friendly. But a word of caution: the vines on this bushy plant can grow eight feet tall – so a small cage will be powerless to hold the plant up.
Dr. Carolyn yellow cherry tomatoes are slightly larger than other cherry tomatoes. These medium sized cherry tomatoes produce bucketfulls of fruit throughout the growing season. The pale yellow color can make it difficult to know when exactly they are ripe, so I suggest eating one or two in the garden to test ripeness. The fruits are somewhat prone to cracking – so even watering is key.
Green Grape tomatoes are a fun way to surprise unsuspecting people. They look for all the world like an ordinary tomato that was harvested way too early, but…surprise!…they are ripe and juicy. These tomatoes have a spicy and zesty flavor. The Green Grape tends to be among the first cherry tomato plants in the garden to set fruit. A note on harvesting: look on the ground, as Green Grape tomatoes tend to fall off the vine when ripe.
Snow White is a friendly ghost variety. These pale yellow fruits have a great sweet flavor, despite their ghoulish appearance when ripe. The Snow White plant typically grows about six feet tall and tends to produce more small, one-inch tomatoes then even fanatical tomato lovers can eat in a season. Don’t be afraid to sneak up on your family and friends and shock them with gift bags full of these little white cherry tomatoes. WOOOooooo produces until Halloween in zone 7b -10.
Cherry Tomato Shapes
Currant tomatoes are the smallest tomatoes you can grow. At full maturity, they are no larger than a pea. They also tend to be the sweetest tomatoes you can grow. In fact they are so sweet, I usually don’t even put them in salads. Rather, I’ll just eat them raw as part of my lycopene-packed complete breakfast. It can be hard to imagine that these itty-bitty fruits need serious cages or staking but they do. Currant tomato plants resemble their wild ancestors in that they will sprawl out everywhere. So, provide your plants with a strong and tall support.
Grape tomatoes fall somewhere in between cherry and plum sized tomatoes. They tend to grow in large clusters like grapes. Most grape tomatoes are hybrids that have become popular during the last twenty years. Since they are relatively new, seeds and starter plants can be difficult to find.
Pear shaped tomatoes are fun to grow and eat. The fruits grow about an inch and a half long and have that classic pear shape. These tomatoes are a favorite among children for their fun shapes and bright colors.
The Hawaiian Currant is a garden curiosity. The fruits range from pea-sized to marble-sized. Unlike most other tomatoes, these little fruits are crunchy. They are one of the easiest currant tomatoes to grow since they are relatively easy to stake. The fruit also stays on the vine after it’s ripe, unlike so-called shattering current varieties, whose fruits drop to the ground when ripe.
Jolly Elf is a rarity among rare grape tomatoes. It’s a determinate variety. It will grow fairly well in a container and doesn’t require staking. The plants tend to be big producers of oblong sweet red fruits. Jolly Elf tomatoes are not prone to splitting and cracking, making them a great option in unpredictable climates.
Yellow Pear is the most common type of pear tomato. These fruits are a fun way to shake up salads and garnish dinner plates. Opinions vary when you ask gardeners if this is one of their favorites. Most people agree that the flavor is pretty bland and the texture is not great. But one man’s bland is another man’s mild. Others love them and grow them just for their children as a novelty. The plants themselves can become a jungle unto themselves, loaded with little yellow pears.
So there you have it, I’ve covered about one percent of the different types and varieties of cherry tomatoes available to home gardeners…