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
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.