In the Garden:
Upper South
August, 2005
Regional Report

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Growing an assortment of cherry tomatoes gives you a range of sizes, colors, and, most importantly, wonderful flavors.

Life's a Bowl of Cherries ... Tomatoes, That Is

Have you always thought that cherry tomatoes were just rock-hard, squirty things that restaurants added to salads for a bit of color? Let the scales fall from your eyes, and allow me to tempt you with how good cherry tomatoes can actually be. Among the hundred varieties of tomatoes I've grown this year, there were about 30 kinds of cherry tomatoes.

Although I had grown a few cherry varieties before, this was the first year for having such a large number, and I've finally discovered what a treat they can be. A bowlful of a colorful mixture of them in a variety of sizes and shapes makes the perfect snack. They also make a wonderful uncooked or quickly cooked sauce for pasta. Try them grilled or cut them in half and toss with minced fresh basil. Of course, you can always add them to a tossed salad, too.

A good news/bad news aspect to cherry tomatoes is that they're generally large plants that are extremely prolific. Be prepared to share with lots of friends if you want to try a number of different varieties. Also plan on staking or caging cherry tomatoes as most grow quite tall; if growing in cages, space them 4 feet apart. Most are highly resistant to pests and diseases, so little care will be needed on that front.

The hardest part of growing cherry tomatoes is choosing which ones to grow. In a purely unscientific analysis, the following are the ones that have been the most successful this year for me, from both growing and eating perspectives. Try to grow as many as possible because having a range of flavors to sample is truly enjoyable.

This Year's Favorites
'Sun Gold' - A modern hybrid that has justifiably earned its reputation as one of the best. The bright, apricot-orange, round globes, 1-inch across, have a fruity, tropical flavor that is a stand-out. Several other yellows that add to the taste range include 'Blondkopfchen', 'Gold Nugget', 'Golden Sweet', and 'Ildi'.

'Isis Candy' - These are unusual in that the fruits are marbled with red and yellow. The flavor is sweet and fruity.

'Snow White' - This is one of the few white cherry tomatoes (actually they ripen to a pale yellow). Round and 1-inch across, they are deliciously sweet without being sugary. 'Mirabelle Blanche' is another white cherry, but it has a pink blush at the blossom end. It has started ripening much later than 'Snow White', but is loaded with flowers.

'Cherry Roma' - The 1-inch-long, pear-shaped fruit have an addictive sweet-spicy flavor. The fruits hold well for extended periods.

'Sweet Pea Currant' - About the size of a pea, this currant tomato has an intensely rich but sweet flavor. Plants bear hundreds of fruit in trusses of 10 to 12. Next year I would like to compare this plant with 'Matt's Wild Cherry'.

'Gold Rush Currant' - The trusses of quarter-inch fruit have an excellent flavor. There is also a variety called 'White Currant', which supposedly has very sweet flavor that I also want to try next year.

'Thai Pink Egg' - Larger than a traditional cherry tomato (about 2 inches long), 'Thai Pink' is still usually classified with cherries. It has a gorgeous pink color and a sweet, rich flavor. 'Amish Salad' is similar.

'Brown Berry' - Warm, earthy brown fruits are a great color addition to a bowl of cherry tomatoes. Fortunately, the sweet, juicy flavor also commends it. There is also a variety called 'Black Cherry' that is on next year's list.

'Peacevine Cherry' - This is a great conversation piece in that it is high in gamma-amino butyric acid, a body sedative that calms jitters, as well as being very high in vitamin C. The complex flavor begins tart and finishes sweet.

Some of the traditional red cherry tomatoes that I've enjoyed more than others include 'Chadwick's Cherry', 'Christmas Grapes', 'Fox Cherry' (one of the first to ripen), 'Gardener's Delight', 'Marcelinno', 'Sweet Baby Girl', and 'Sweet Olive'.


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