By Niki Jabbour
I was recently asked about my favorite small-fruited tomato varieties and as I began to list them off, I realized that most of them are All-America Selection winners! From Celano to Midnight Snack, Fantastico to Fire Fly, there are colors and flavors to suit every tomato lover. Plus, these delicious varieties are often paired with exceptional characteristics like disease resistance or early maturity.
While I love growing large-fruited slicing tomatoes in my garden, most mature weeks later than cherry, grape, and currant tomatoes. These small-fruited wonders start my season in mid-July and continue to produce until frost. What more could you ask for?
There are different types of tiny tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are small on size, but big on flavor! The rounded fruits are found in a rainbow of colors like red, orange, yellow, white, green, burgundy, black, purple and pink with most offering a summery sweetness. Grape tomatoes are also sweet but have an oblong shape and firm texture. Currant tomatoes are truly tiny, often just a half-inch (1.25 cm) across. They’re wonderful sprinkled in salads or gobbled up while still in the garden
Growing tiny tomatoes from seed:
In most regions, tomatoes need to be started indoors six to eight weeks before the last expected spring frost. Sow seeds in pots filled with a high-quality potting mix and place them under grow lights or in a sunny window. Once the risk of frost has passed, harden off the seedlings and move them to the garden.
Planting tomatoes in garden beds and containers:
Giving your tomato plants a sunny site, good soil, and regular tending can mean a larger harvest for you!
· Best site
For optimum production, plant tomatoes in a spot that receives at least eight to ten hours of direct sun each day. Many gardeners struggle to find a site with that much sun and this is where small-fruited tomatoes come in handy as they can still produce a respectable harvest when grown in just four to six hours of light.
· Soil amendments
Tomatoes are heavy feeders and appreciate compost-enriched soil. I dig in several inches of compost or aged manure before planting and also add a dose of a slow-release organic tomato fertilizer.
Tomato plants produce roots all along their stems and can therefore be planted deeply. This helps encourage a deep root system that is less prone to drought. When planting, place the seedling in the planting hole so that the bottom half is buried. Remove any leaves first.
Spacing depends on the mature size of the selected variety and how you intend to support the plant. I grow my indeterminate tomatoes vertically on stakes, inserting the stake at planting time. This allows me to plant them closer than if they were unsupported. My staked tomato plants are placed 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm) apart. Unsupported tomatoes are spaced three to four feet (90 to 120 cm) apart. Compact determinate varieties can be planted 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) apart. Read seed packets and plant labels carefully for specific spacing recommendations.
I use seven-foot-tall (2 m) wooden stakes to support my vining tomatoes, tying the fresh growth to the stake every week or two. For determinant varieties that grow less than three feet (90 cm) tall, you can use a sturdy tomato cage. Truly small-growing varieties like Fantastico, Terenzo, and Lizzano don’t need support.
· Growing in containers
Tomatoes grow great in containers, especially compact, determinant varieties like Terenzo and Fantastico. That said, any tomato variety—even tall-growing indeterminate ones—can be planted in pots if the containers are large enough. I fill my tomato containers with a mixture of a high-quality potting mix and compost. Water consistently and fertilize regularly.
Celano is perfect for small-space or container gardeners who want a productive, early, and delicious grape variety. Expect long chains of tomatoes produced on 3 1/2 foot (105 cm) tall late blight resistant plants.
This is a wonderful choice for pots or hanging baskets, only growing about a foot (30 cm) tall. The early-maturing plants produce a heavy crop of crack-resistant red grape tomatoes. It is late-blight resistant.
An indigo-type cherry tomato, Midnight Snack has unique glossy red-purple fruits perfect for snacking. The plants are indeterminate and should be staked or caged.
Red Torch, a striped oblong fruit about 1.5 ″ (3.75 cm) long, starts producing earlier in the season than most. Expect 100 plus of these all season long. Add them to your salad for taste and color.
The only AAS award-winning currant-type tomato. This plant has a nice tidy habit with the fruit forming more on the outside of the plant making them easier to harvest.
Fire Fly is a small cherry variety with butter yellow tomatoes less than one inch across. The tall plants are generous in their harvest so expect to enjoy a bumper crop of tiny tomatoes for months!
I like to plant Patio Choice Yellow at the sides of my raised beds to cascade over the edges, but it’s also great in containers. Expect at least a hundred fruits per plant! Each bright yellow tomato is a sweet summer treat.
If you love grape tomatoes, be sure to add Valentine to your wish list. This early maturing variety yields a heavy crop of bright red grape tomatoes beginning just 55 days from transplanting. The fruits are extremely sweet and resistant to cracking. Expect the harvest to continue for months!
This post, including the photos, is provided as an education/inspirational service of All-America Selections.