QUESTION: In seed catalogs and product descriptions for tomato plants, I see lots of grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. I’m not sure which of these smaller tomato varieties to choose. What is the difference between cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes? — Elise V.
ANSWER: The two plants are similar enough that you can substitute cherry tomatoes for grape tomatoes (or vice versa) in most recipes. Due to the differences in size and shape, grape tomatoes should not be substituted for cherry tomatoes in recipes where the tomatoes are stuffed. Health benefits of the two varieties are the same, and so is the growth cycle of the two plants. Both grape and cherry tomatoes are praised for their sweetness, compared to larger types of tomatoes. However, there are some differences between the two plant varieties, which we’ll list below.
Facts About Cherry Tomatoes
- Named “cherry tomatoes” because of their similar shape and size to the fruit
- Notorious for being juicy enough to gush juice when bitten into
- Sweeter and juicier than grape tomatoes on average, though individual varieties may be bred for sweetness or a tart flavor
- Thinner skin than grape tomatoes, leading to a shorter shelf life and increased likelihood of being bruised or damaged in transport
- Come in a variety of shades including red, orange, and yellow
- Almost twice the size of grape tomatoes on average
- Due to the size difference, you may need to cut cherry tomatoes in quarters or halves if they are used as a substitute for grape tomatoes in a recipe
- Tend to be served raw or just slightly cooked as a side to fish or chicken, in kebabs, in salads, or as a sauce
- More varieties to choose from whether you’re shopping in person at a garden center, looking at seed catalogs, or checking out a gardening website
Facts About Grape Tomatoes
- More oblong in shape than cherry tomatoes, like that of a grape, from which these types of tomato get their name
- Grow in clusters on the tomato plant that resemble clusters of grapes
- Clusters of grape tomatoes are also larger than those of cherry tomatoes, making grape tomatoes preferred by gardeners or farmers trying to get the maximum yield from their plants
- About half the size of cherry tomatoes, on average
- While cherry tomatoes are known for their sweetness, grape tomatoes have a tarter or more acidic flavor
- Less juicy and watery than cherry tomatoes, with a meatier and more solid texture
- Chefs enjoy using grape tomatoes in garnishes and sauces, roasted, or eaten raw in a salad or kebab
- Because of their thicker skins and lower moisture content, grape tomatoes retain their quality when transported from the farm to grocery store shelves—or just from the garden to your kitchen counter
- The qualities that make grape tomatoes hold up well in transport also give them a longer shelf life once they reach the gardener or consumer’s kitchen; grape tomatoes will continue to look and taste fresh for a long time after their purchase
Although at first glance, grape and cherry tomatoes may have seemed quite similar, the truth is there are plenty of differences. Just to recap, cherry tomatoes can be almost twice as large as grape tomatoes. They’re also sweeter and more juicy. However, due to their thinner skins and high moisture content, cherry tomatoes just don’t transport as well as grape tomatoes. As you can see, choosing the best variety of tomatoes for your garden is a very personal decision with many factors to consider—so this list of the qualities of each tomato will help guide you to the answer.