The first vegetable I ever grew was a robust cherry tomato, and this started me on my way to a lifetime of growing good things to eat. I still enjoy growing cherry tomatoes every year, and recommend them to gardeners who are just getting started, because there is little that can go wrong when growing cherry tomatoes.
For example, because of the smallness of the fruits, tomato plants can easily provide ripening cherry tomatoes with the nutrients they need, so blossom end rot is a rare event. Disease tolerance tends to be good, too, and some heirloom varieties like 'Matt's Wild Cherry' even resist late blight. The blossoms of cherry tomatoes tend to be small, which means the pollen must travel a shorter distance for good pollination to occur. As a result, cherry tomatoes tend to set fruit better in hot or cold weather compared to larger-fruited varieties.
The Best Cherry Tomato Varieties to Grow
And then there is the flavor factor. Popular cherry tomatoes like 'Sungold' often win taste tests, and rack up high Brix (sugar) ratings, too. Among varieties that have earned Awards of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, 'Sungold' can have Brix ratings of 9.3, with even higher levels for plum-shaped 'Rosada'. Dainty little tomatoes that taste fruity are more likely to be eaten raw, with all of their vitamins and other phytonutrients intact, making them one of the most nutritious crops you can grow.
There are special varieties for growing in baskets, but the best cherry tomatoes for gardens are indeterminate (cordon) varieties with a vine-like growth habit. For this reason it is wise to grow them in in pairs with good support from sturdy cages, because cherry tomatoes grow into vigorous plants. If you use a greenhouse or high tunnel, by all means try 'Sakura', which is often grown in high tunnels and sold in beautiful clusters at farmers' markets.
If you need late blight resistance for cherry tomatoes grown outdoors, 'Favorita', 'Jasper', or 'Mountain Magic' will deliver a great crop. For new excitement in cherry tomatoes, there is heart-shaped red 'Tomatoberry Garden' from Japan, perhaps the cutest of all cherry tomatoes.
Dried and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes have little solid flesh and lots of bitter seeds, so they are not the best candidates for canning or juicing. About half of our cherry tomatoes get eaten from a bowl kept on the kitchen table, and the rest go into the food dehydrator or the freezer. Cherry tomatoes must be cut into halves or quarters to dry well, but the raisin-like tidbits are great to have around for adding to a long list of dishes from pasta salad to pizza.
You can freeze cherry tomatoes whole, but a better approach is to make large batches of roasted cherry tomatoes during harvest season, and freeze those that are not eaten right away. The process is simple: place clean, whole cherry tomatoes in a large baking pan, toss with a light coating of olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and bake in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 45 minutes. Some moisture evaporates as the tomatoes collapse into soft pillows, which helps to concentrate their flavor. Best of all, when packed into freezer containers, roasted cherry tomatoes take up much less space than if they had been frozen whole.
By Barbara Pleasant