Grow the ultimate easy vegetable in your backyard.
Ellen Ruoff Riley

Pop them in your mouth like candy. Savor each sweet, little vegetable bursting with the essence of summer sun. If outstanding flavor isn’t reason enough to plant cherry tomatoes, then their abundance and easygoing nature make them irresistible.

If you’re new to the pleasures of cultivating your own, tiny tomatoes offer the best starting point for success. We consulted expert Linda Sapp with Tomato Growers Supply Company in Fort Myers, Florida, for the essential information. “Cherry tomatoes are closely related to the original species found in the wild,” she explains. “This gives them a hardiness and vigor the large beefsteaks lack. They withstand stress―temperature fluctuations, high humidity, and drought―better than large tomatoes, and they are significantly more disease resistant.”

Fabulous Flavor
Grocery stores have hopped on the bandwagon. You’ll find red and yellow pear-shape tomatoes at premium prices, and golf ball-size crimson cherries that present a pretty picture. But they also lack the flavor of your own backyard produce. Plant selections you won’t find at the market (such as those shown above) for ultimate dining pleasure.

“There are so many color choices now, and cherry tomatoes’ flavors are as varied as their larger beefsteak counterparts,” Linda says. The common denominator among all selections is sweetness. Size, shape, color, and texture vary.

Grape tomatoes fall into this petite category but have their own unique traits. “Obviously the shape is different,” Linda adds. “The skin is almost crisp, and the sugar content is higher in these selections.” If this type of tomato is your preference, choose plants that specifically say they are grape-style.

Tips for Success

The Tasteful Garden offers a Bowl of Cherries collection (six plants, $24.95) by mail. To order visit www.tastefulgarden.com, or call 1-866-855-6344.

  • Plant in full sun―a minimum of four hours each day―in a well-drained location with good air circulation.
  • Provide support for the vigorous stems and branches.
  • Feed with a granular timed-release plant food such as Osmocote when you plant.
  • Water several times a week. Cherry tomatoes continue setting flowers and new fruit during drought, so don’t overwater.
     

"Bite-Size Tomato" is from the May 2008 issue of Southern Living.