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What is a Grape Tomato?

Michael Pollick
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Every so often, a new variety of fruit or vegetable becomes an overnight sensation. Such is the case with the hybrid strain called a grape tomato. Originally introduced as an exotic item in upscale grocery stores, this vegetable has become extremely popular for both produce growers and customers alike. Producers benefit from the its hearty skin and high yield per plant, while customers enjoy the enhanced sweetness and convenient size.

The original tomato plants found in South America produced fruit not much larger than plums. The larger and heartier varieties of tomatoes favored by consumers were the result of cross-breeding and other hybrid growing techniques. A demand for smaller tomatoes resulted in the development of the 'cherry' tomato, which became a popular item for snacking and salads.

As the years rolled by and consumer preferences changed, the cherry tomato began to lose its appeal. Its thin skin and high water content made shipping difficult, and many consumers were not impressed with its variable flavor. Meanwhile, a new strain of tomato was created in Southeast Asia which combined the thicker skin of the beefsteak-style tomato with the size and flavor of the Italian Roma tomato. The result was a first generation hybrid fruit with a thick skin, low water content and an intense sweetness. Because it resembled an olive or grape, this new variety became known as a grape tomato.

Because the grape tomato is a hybrid, seeds produced directly from the fruit cannot be used to grow more plants. Anyone interested in producing a it commercially must obtain seeds from the original hybrid strain. This is precisely what a grower from Florida did during the 1990s. He introduced the first grape tomato strain, called the Santa F1, to the United States.

Another grower in Mexico imported a similar strain from Thailand. Both growers marketed their products to gourmet grocery stores and specialty produce stores. Eventually large-scale produce companies bought up the remaining seeds in an attempt to corner the market on the popular vegetable.

A grape tomato is half the size of a cherry tomato, which makes it easier to distribute in salads and eat as a snack. The lower water content cuts down on the squirt factor experienced by many cherry tomato eaters. The flavor of this vegetable is noticeably sweeter than a Roma or cherry tomato. Some bars in Asia offer customers bowls of grape tomatoes instead of the usual salted peanuts.

Because grape tomatoes grows in clusters on a small vine, harvesting can be very labor intensive. The fruit must be picked at a point when the color is changing from light pink to a hint of red. A green tomato will not continue to ripen off the vine, and a red tomato will be overripe by the time it reaches the store shelves. However,grape tomatoes do enjoy a year-round growing season, so they should be available even when other tomato varieties are out of season or prohibitively expensive.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to DelightedCooking, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon325373 — On Mar 15, 2013

I have grown grape tomato seeds from Walmart every year and they grow fine and make small, sweet and very tasty grape tomatoes. I suggest just buying some tomatoes and planting them each year. The first generation will come out almost identical to the store bought ones.

By anon226735 — On Nov 02, 2011

The spring of 2010 my wife and I planted three grape tomato starts in a large pot on wheels on the deck so she could grab a few without having to go all the way to the garden for the munchies. They still had some blooms last fall so we pulled it into the sun room. She had grape tomatoes all last winter.

This past spring, I rolled it out on the deck again but it was looking a little spindly. I took cuttings from some of the stems and set them in the dirt, and some seeds from the dropped tomatoes came up also. We just rolled it into the sun room for a second winter and it is fuller than ever. I just took a couple more cuttings and moved down again to keep it going. The tomatoes are a little larger but she says the flavor is great.

By anon217438 — On Sep 25, 2011

It is false that seeds from a hybrid cannot be used to grow a grape tomato. This is something that is repeated over and over and is untrue.

You just may not get a tomato exactly like the one you ate. You may get one of the crossed versions. That could be why some of the posters here report growing larger grapes with the second generation.

They may have actually grown one of the parent tomatoes. All tomatoes are hybrids of one form or another. Your store-bought grape tomatoes simply may not breed "true." You might get a little bit of a different tomato but it will likely be similar.

By anon179680 — On May 24, 2011

I had to laugh when I read this article. I thought that our professor was the ignorant one and it turned out, he was. He said grape tomatoes were a cross between a grape and a tomato, so I looked it up. Liberal nutcase.

By anon37144 — On Jul 17, 2009

Why are some grape tomatoes yellow and orange? What make them change colors?

By anon32585 — On May 24, 2009

I'm growing "Santa" tomato plants on my balcony in large pots. I bought them as seedlings from my local garden store because I thought they were a bush variety (non-staking). I didn't want big tall long vines hanging over my balcony... I've searched everywhere on the internet for a photo of a full-sized Santa tomato plant because I'm starting to suspect that they aren't going to be as "bushy" as I had hoped, and I'm wondering if I need to stake/cage them after all. And if so, how big of cages I need. Can anyone help here? Thanks!

By anon27585 — On Mar 02, 2009

I know nothing about gardening or botany, but I am growing a grape tomato plant in my San Francisco apartment (the plant thus resides indoors). The plant is about three months old, but is just under a foot tall and about a foot wide. I think it's because I kept transferring the plant to a bigger pot than the previous. It began with a 5"x5" pot. Then it became obvious that it was too small, so I transferred it to an 8"x6" pot. A month later, that pot wasn't enough. Now it's in a huge 2'x2'.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that if you want to grow big plants, don't start out with tiny pots! Obvious, yeah, I know.

By anon24563 — On Jan 14, 2009

the seed from the grape tomatoes are viable, but not to save and use for commercial use. they came from hybrid tomatoes and you can't be sure if they will produce traits similar to the tomato you got it from it will most likely revert back to the main traits of one of the parents of the plant that you got the tomatoes from.. so you can try, might not work well and you won't get a decent crop of "grape" tomatoes, if you're trying to do that.

By anon23905 — On Jan 04, 2009

I have also read elsewhere that tomatoes from the grocery, being hybridized, would not be able to sprout into producing vines. During early summer in Houston, I tossed rotted grape tomatoes from Kroger into my compost pile. In early Fall, my husband tossed the compost into a lavender plant. Both are flourishing, and a now 5 foot long tomato plant with 50 flowers grew out of the small pot. In January, I harvested 10 tiny tomatoes, and another 2 foot high, flowering tomato plant has grown in my compost heap. The newly ripe tomatoes are bursting with flavor and a welcome surprise this winter. My mother, an avid gardener, has taken a tomato from my plant in order to grow another plant.

By anon15497 — On Jul 13, 2008

O.k., I found this discussion and thought I would add to it. I have a VERY small garden and usually plant 3 grape tomatoes to go with our salads. The very first year I purchased the seedlings, we had wonderful fruit. About 1 1/2 - 2 inches long at times, oblong, delicious and sweet. We could pick them by the handfuls and eat them right off the vine. Very hearty growers and bountiful.

Every year since then it has been hit or miss in buying "grape" seedlings. More miss then Hit. Most of the time we wind up with regular 1" long round grapes that just don't have the same flavor. And the plants usually die early. Interestingly enough, we usually have 1- 3 self starters that crop up wild around the yard. (Its kind of amusing to walk by the house and see A huge tomato plant and cage right smack dab in the middle of the front yard). My question is..Where can I find the 1 1/2 - 2 " long oblong grapes at? They really can't be beat! Ron in Baltimore

By anon14939 — On Jun 27, 2008

I used Grape tomato seeds from the fruit. I fermented them to get the gel off and grew them inside until after the first frost (in NC). I hardened them and grew them in pots. Now - late June I have plants about 6ft tall with lots of bloom and fruit that appears to be a grape tomato. They are not red yet but they are the right size. Right now each plant has about 20-30 fruits and about that many flowers. What encouraged me to try this from purchased grape tomato is a chicken ate the seed and volunteered them around the farm last year. Those plants did have grape tomatoes and tasted wonderful.

By anon6608 — On Jan 03, 2008

When the original poster said - "Because the grape tomato is a hybrid, seeds produced directly from the fruit cannot be used to grow more plants." - I assumed that the original poster meant that the seeds of this hybrid plant would be sterile, so that the seeds would be inviable. That is, the seeds of the sterile hybrid would simply not sprout. But it appears that some people planted seeds and they grew. So this - to me - sounds like the seeds are viable, but because it's a hybrid plant, you might not be guaranteed to get the same kind of plant as the parent plant. Hence the 'bigger' tomatoes from the plants grown from the hybrid seeds.

Posted by Kenny

By blade — On Oct 28, 2007

I have two Grape tomato plants. They grew well, and produced a lot of blossoms, however set little fruit. What did set was very easily knocked loose.

The other tomatoes did great.

What am I doing wrong?

JB

By anon3713 — On Sep 13, 2007

Interesting that you say grape tomatoes will not grow from original plant. I planted grape tomatoes plants last year from a local grower. I had numerous plants come up this year on their own (self starters)I usually pull plants up that are self starters but decided I'd let 3 of them go just to see, and they produced larger grape tomatoes than the plants I planted this year.

By anon3712 — On Sep 13, 2007

I planted grape tomatoes last year and had several plants come up on their own and produced huge grape tomatoes. The self starters actually produced bigger fruit than the plants I purchased from a grower for this years garden.

Denise

By Debbie — On May 24, 2007

Okay, I now have a grape tomato on the vine. I found it yesterday. I have lots of blooms. I took a picture. If you have a place where I can send it, let me know. It is a little out of focus because I was trying to get really close. It is very small, but it definitely has the grape tomato shape.

By Debbie — On May 03, 2007

Yes, I have six plants growing, and they look very healthy. I had grape tomatoes in my refrigerator that I bought at Kroger. The package said grape tomatoes. I cut a grape tomato open and planted the seeds directly into the potting soil. This was in February. I wasn't sure it would work, but I thought well, nothing lost if it doesn't. I transplanted them about a week ago. I didn't even know how big the plants would get. I assumed they would be smaller plants so I planted them in big pots on my deck. Then I read that they grow to really tall plants. When I transplanted them, I planted them deep so they are now about six to eight inches tall.

By Dayton — On May 03, 2007

Hm. That's very interesting. Were they specifically Grape Tomato seeds, or other kinds of tomatoes that you have planted? And you say you have a plant growing, but no tomatoes yet? I'm sure we'd all like to hear more about that!

By Debbie — On May 03, 2007

The reason I ask is that I did this. I had no idea it would not work. I've saved my own seeds for years. The plants look great. I guess they are just going to be "ornamental."

By Dayton — On May 02, 2007

Because Grape Tomatoes are hybrids, the seeds they produce will not grow into anything. You may, however, be able to buy grape tomato seeds at your local gardening store.

By Debbie — On May 02, 2007

This article states that since the grape tomato is a hybrid, the seeds can't be used directly from the tomato to grow other plants. My question is: What happens if you do plant the seeds directly from the fruit? Will it produce any type of tomato?

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

Writer

As a frequent contributor to DelightedCooking, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
Learn more
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