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NC State Extension

Evaluating New Lines of Grape Tomatoes

Bill Jester, Randy Gardner, and Keith Tyson

What is a grape tomato?

A grape tomato is a true tomato that is the size of a cherry tomato of smaller and shaped like a large grape. The fruits are very sweet, or should be, and last a long time after they are picked. Flavor is similar to a cherry tomato but with its own special nuances. Plants bear heavily and fruits form in clusters. Leaves tend to be smaller than on cherry tomatoes. Fruits are generally 1” long, 3/4” wide.

Quote from NC State University tomato breeder, Dr. Randy Gardner:
“Grape tomatoes, the very sweet tomatoes, have become very popular. There’s been increased consumption, I think, because of that. So, if we can come up with new types of tomatoes that really appeal to the consumer, I can see there would be great opportunity for people to grow tomatoes because there would be greater demand for the crop.”

According to the California Tomatoes website:
“Grape tomatoes really took off in 2001; nationally, grape tomato volume increased 142.9%, and their dollar sales increased 133%.”

Here at the NC Specialty Crops Program in Kinston, N.C., we are looking at several of Randy Gardner’s grape tomatoes for production in eastern N.C. The varieties included this year are:

  • Santa – the industry standard
  • NC 042
  • NC 1 grape
  • Novio
  • NC 043
  • NC 03134
  • NC 041