and grape tomato varieties do vary by color, shape,
flavor, aroma, taste.
have names like Jolly Elf, Indigo Rose, Orange Fizz, Baby
Cakes and Cherry Buzz. They come in stop-sign red, deep
ruby, golden yellow, chocolate brown and pale orange. They
can look like a big gum ball or a plump olive.
are some of the more than 100 varieties of cherry and grape
tomatoes that can be found on a list compiled by Rutgers New
Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (njaes.rutgers.edu/tomato-varieties).
may also find them growing in gardens, at farmers markets
and at grocery stores, for apparently we have a soft spot
for these tiny cousins of beefsteak and plum tomatoes.
are attracted to small-fruited tomatoes due to the wide
reputation they have for extra sweetness and probably
subacid tartness compared to other tomatoes," says Jack
Rabin, of Rutgers Agricultural Experiment Station.
tomatoes, round and looking like, well, cherries, are
similar to tomatoes people munched five-plus centuries ago.
the earliest tomatoes were tiny little yellow and red and
green things that would have been looking like todayís
cherry tomato," says Rabin.
elongated grape tomato (yes, it looks like a grape or olive)
arrived in this country in a big way in 1997 thanks to
large-scale commercial availability.
popularity has prompted retailers to give them more shelf
space and offer more varieties, says Rabin. But what are
shoppers to do if they canít tell a Sweet Olive from an
and grape tomato varieties do vary by color, shape, flavor,
aroma, taste. However, Rabin says, "There are
differences that mean something to the eater and differences
that mean something to a farmer."
other words, a farmer may care when a particular variety
matures. The consumer? Probably taste, maybe color, maybe
portability, maybe lower acidity.
while people were creating yellow varieties with low acidity
20 years ago, today itís a different story, he says.
are creating full acid and low acid in all colors, so itís
actually impossible in our time today to generalize that a
yellow tomato will be a subacid tomato. You have to buy them
and eat them and make your own judgment."
lots of cherry and grape tomatoes, in fact, may be the best
way to find out what appeals to you.
tomato varieties and flavors change throughout a growing
season, it helps to chat with the farmers at your market.
And since some grocery stores have a buy-local program, as a
spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture points
out, you may be able to purchase a tomato that has grown on
the vine longer than those shipped from farther away.
be afraid to talk to someone at the farmers market or in
your grocery store and ask them if you can taste and
sample," says the spokeswoman.
for tomatoes that are firm and a full color for the
particular variety," she adds. "You want them free
of any bruising, any blemishes, any softness, any decay.
Generally you want them to feel heavy for their size since
theyíre more likely to be nice and full and juicy."
pick up the container and sniff. "An important thing
for tomatoes is the smell ó not so much that it smells
good (but) because I canít pick out the individual ones so
easily when Iím buying that pint or quart basket, Iím
smelling for any off odors" the spokeswoman says.
"I donít want to smell musty or moldy. Different
types of decays might also have a fishy smell or a vinegary
avoid refrigerating uncut tomatoes.
reason is that the No. 1 cause of disappointing tomato
flavor is cold refrigeration below 55 degrees between the
time it leaves the farm and the time that it enters your
mouth," says Rabin.
those small tomatoes cold packaged on a deli tray with
celery and carrots or other ingredients "are likely to
farmers market is "a totally different environment
because the tomatoes were likely not refrigerated after they
left the farm, and theyíre likely to be more ripe when
they were harvested and likely to be more consistent,"
at them, smell them ó touch them if the vendor allows you
to touch them ó do a little taste test."
Markís Farm Market and Greenhouse in LaPorte, Ind., where
more than 10 varieties of grape and cherry tomatoes are
grown, Kaleena Mark always eats them raw. "You can mix
them in with your sauces if you want," Mark says.
"Theyíre just a little hard to try to cut and
prepare. So I usually just toss them in my salads or put
them in with my bruschetta."
tiny tomatoes are filling farmers markets, with different
varieties ripening throughout the season, eat them fresh.
Toss them whole into salads or simple pasta recipes. Slice
them and place them atop bruschetta or pizza. Add them to a
skillet in which youíve cooked fish fillets or meat
cutlets to flavor pan juices. Or roast them, tossing washed
cherry or grape tomatoes with olive oil, some crushed
garlic, salt, pepper and a few herbs, then roast 20 to 25
minutes in a 375-degree oven.
Mini grape tomato
Olive grape tomato
Nugget cherry tomato
Gold cherry tomato