Cherry Tomatoes

Of all the tomatoes, cherry tomatoes are the most fun. These little snacking tomatoes are easy to grow, productive, and delicious.

There are dozens of different cherry tomatoes — heirlooms and prolific hybrids, and red, white, orange, striped, and almost-black varieties. Some grow in clusters, like grapes, and some produce rows of pretty, bite-sized fruits along dangling stems. Most cherry tomatoes grow on lanky, indeterminate plants that like to sprawl, but tidy determinate cultivars are well-behaved enough for a pot on the patio. Everyone has their favorites.

Doug Oster, author of Tomatoes, Garlic, Basil, says ‘Sun Gold’, a flashy, golden orange cherry tomato, is the most important tomato in his garden in Pittsburgh. “That’s because it’s my wife’s tomato,” he says, but he loves it, too, because it bears fruit early, doesn’t mind scorching summer heat, and will not fail if the season is too wet. ‘Sun Gold’ is prolific and sweet, he says, “but it has that tomato taste in it. They really have that zing of a tomato.”

Oster grows dozens of tomatoes of every size and description, and he doesn’t pamper any of them. He plants his tomato crop in raised beds topped up with lots of compost, setting plants about three feet apart. It’s “too close together” he says, but it works just right for his tomato cages, which are three feet across. He likes to plant early in the season, but ‘Sun Gold’, in particular, will flourish even if it is planted a month into the summer. “They hit the ground running,” he says.

Cherry tomatoes seem less susceptible to blossom-end rot than full-sized tomatoes, and they are forgiving plants that keep right on producing even if you neglect the fertilizer and forget to stake them. They are so prolific that you can eat all you want in the garden and still walk into the house with a bowlful for a salad. A stem of cherry tomatoes is pretty in a flower arrangement, too: Constance Spry, the great English flower arranger, was known for picking a long, graceful cluster of cherry tomatoes to drape over the edge of vase full of summer flowers. It sounds like just the thing for a summer cocktail party.

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