What Are Currant Tomatoes: Different Types Of Currant Tomato
By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Currant tomatoes are unusual tomato varieties available from seed collection sites and vendors that specialize in rare or heirloom fruits and vegetables. What are currant tomatoes, you may ask? They are similar to a cherry tomato, but smaller. The plants are the likely cross of wild cherry tomato plants and develop hundreds of small, finger nail size fruits.
If you can get your hands on currant tomato plants, they will reward you with sweet fruits, perfect for eating out of hand, canning, or preserving.
What Are Currant Tomatoes?
Currant tomatoes are tiny cherry tomatoes that grow on indeterminate vines. They produce all season long until frost kills the plants. The plants may get up to 8 feet (2.5 m.) tall and require staking to keep fruit exposed to light and off the ground.
Each plant bears hundreds of small oval tomatoes that are similar to wild cherry tomatoes. The fruits are extremely sweet and filled with juicy pulp, which makes them perfect for preserves.
There are several currant tomato varieties. White currant tomatoes are actually a light yellow in color. The red currant varieties produce pea-sized fruits. There are numerous cultivars of both types of currant tomato.
Currant Tomato Varieties
Sweet pea and Hawaiian are two sweet small red currant varieties. Sweet pea bears in about 62 days and the fruits are one of the tiniest of the currant tomato varieties.
The Yellow Squirrel Nut currant is a wild tomato cross from Mexico with yellow fruits. White currants are a pale yellow in color and produce in 75 days.
Other types of currant tomato include:
- Jungle Salad
- Cerise Orange
- Red and Yellow Blend
- Gold Rush
- Lemon Drop
- Golden Rave
- Matt’s Wild Cherry
- Sugar Plum
The Sweet Pea and white are the most common types of currant tomato and seeds or starts are easy to find. The sweetest varieties are Sugar Plum, Sweet Pea, and Hawaiian. For a balanced flavor of sweet and tart, try Lemon Drop, which has a slightly tangy, acidity mixed with the sugary, sweet taste.
Growing Currant Tomato Plants
These tiny plants prefer well-drained soil in full sun. Currant tomatoes are related to the Mexican wild cherry tomato and, as such, can tolerate some of the hottest areas.
The vines require staking or try growing them against a fence or trellis.
Care of currant tomato plants is the same as any tomato. Feed the plants with fertilizer made for tomatoes. Water them frequently, especially once blossoms and fruit begin to set. Indeterminate plants will continue to grow until cold weather kills the vines.
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How to Grow Currant Tomato | Guide to Growing Currant Tomatoes
Red Currant plants produce copious quantities of small (
1/2" diameter), deep red tomatoes that are exceptionally sweet and packed with flavor. They typically require around 75 days to reach maturity, and make a good choice for containers and hanging baskets, though they are indeterminate growers.
Tomatoes require a long growing season, and are best started indoors 6 weeks before the anticipated transplanting date (after the final frost of the spring). For best results, sow seeds ½" deep in a well-drained, soilless starting mix. Seeds require warm soil between roughly 65-90 degrees F. Warmer soils will promote faster germination. Keep soil moist, but not soggy while awaiting germination. Moderate watering slightly once seedlings break through the soil.
SOIL & GROWING NEEDS
Tomato plants prefer well-drained, fertile soil, high in organic matter. Fertile clays and loams produce the highest yields, but lighter soils that drain and warm quickly can produce earlier harvests. It can tolerate slightly acidic soils, and is most productive with pH 6.0 to 6.8.
Tomato is a heavy feeder and should be fertilized with an organic blend rich in phosphorus and potassium, and containing moderate nitrogen.
Tomatoes need at least 8 hours of direct sun daily, and will develop faster with increased exposure. If possible, grow on a slight slope with southern or southeastern exposure. Tomatoes are native to tropical regions, and have the greatest light needs of any standard garden vegetable.
Staked and pruned plants can grow to well over 6 feet tall in favorable growing seasons, can be trained to narrow spreads. If space is limiting, use smaller determinate varieties.
Tomato is very labor intensive if you stake, prune or use plastic mulch and row covers.
TRANSPLANTING YOUR STARTS OUTSIDE
Once the last frost has passed and temperatures do not drop below approximately 50 degrees F at night, you can begin to consider transplanting. Don't rush to transplant. Cold soil and air temperatures can stress plants. Wait at least a week or two after the last frost. When considering candidates for transplanting, look for sturdy, short, dark green plants. Avoid plants that are tall, leggy, or yellowish, or have started flowering. Transplants that are too mature often stall after transplanting while younger, smaller plants pass them by, producing earlier and more fruit.
Harden off plants before transplanting by reducing water and fertilizer, not by exposing to cold temperatures, which can stress them and stunt growth. Transplants exposed to cold temperatures (60 F to 65 F day and 50 F to 60 F night) are more prone to catfacing. This (misshapen, deformed fruit) is caused by incomplete pollination, usually due to cold weather. Don't rush to transplant until weather has stabilized and soil is warm.
Unlike most plants, tomatoes do better if planted deeper than they were grown in containers. Set them in the ground so that the soil level is just below the lowest leaves. Roots will form along the buried stem, establishing a stronger root system.
To reduce root disease risk, don't plant on soils that have recently grown tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplant for at least two years.
Use black plastic mulch to warm soil and/or row covers, hot caps or other protection to keep plants warm early in the season. Remove covers whenever temperatures exceed 85 F.
SPACING & COMPANION PLANTING CONSIDERATIONS
Depending on the nature of your starts, recommendation on spacing vary slightly:
12 to 24 inches apart for determinate varieties
14 to 20 inches apart for staked indeterminate varieties
24 to 36 inches apart for unstaked indeterminate varieties
Tomatoes can be cultivated in close proximity to carrots, onions, chives, garlic, asparagus, roses, and nettle. In some cases, tomatoes will help to deter parasites or other harmful conditions to the above-mentioned plants.
Avoid planting tomatoes near cabbage, kale, horseradish, broccoli, turnip, rutabega, arugula, cress, radish, mustard, kohlrabi, cauliflower, or any other members of the Brassicaceae family. Also keep tomatoes away from corn, potatoes and fennel herb.
MULCHING, STAKING & PRUNING TOMATO PLANTS
Mulch plants after the soil has warmed up to maintain soil moisture and suppress weeds. A reflective mulch, such as red plastic that will reflect light, can be help to promote more complete development if light conditions are not ideal. Tomatoes need a consistent supply of moisture. If it rains less than 1 inch per week, water to make up the difference.
Many factors (in addition to your choice of variety) affect total yield, first harvest and fruit quality. Raised beds, black plastic mulch and providing consistent moisture by watering or through drip irrigation are good ways to improve all three.
How you provide support to plants can also affect performance. Determinate varieties do not need staking. But staking and pruning indeterminate varieties can hasten first harvest by a week or more, improve fruit quality, keep fruit cleaner, and make harvest easier. Staking and pruning usually reduces total yield, but fruits will tend to be larger. Staked and pruned plants are also more susceptible to blossom end rot and sunscald. Allowing indeterminate varieties to sprawl reduces labor, but takes up more space and plants are more prone to disease.
Wooden tomato stakes are typically about 6 feet long and 1 ½ inch square, but you can use similar materials. Drive stakes at least 8 to 10 inches deep at or soon after transplanting so as not to damage roots.
Prune tomatoes to one or two vigorous stems by snapping off "suckers" (stems growing from where leaf stems meet the main stem) when they are 2 to 4 inches long. Tie stems to stake with soft string, twine or cloth, forming a figure-8 with the stem in one loop and the stake in the other. This gives the stem room to expand without being constricted. Start about 8 to 12 inches above the ground and continue to tie at similar intervals as the plant grows. As an alternative to using individual stakes, grow several plants in a row between heavy-duty stakes or posts spaced about 4 feet apart, and use twine to weave in and out around posts and plants.
Growing tomatoes in cages is a good compromise between labor-intensive staking and just letting them sprawl. You can purchase tomato cages at your local garden center, or simply bend a 6-foot-long piece of 4- to 6-inch wire mesh into a cylinder about 22 inches in diameter. (Cattle fencing or concrete reinforcing wire mesh work well for this.) Place cage around plants soon after transplanting and anchor with stakes.
FERTILIZING & WATERING TOMATOES
Avoid excessive N applications, which can cause excessive foliage and poor fruit set. Also avoid using fresh manure or high nitrogen fertilizers (those with three or more times nitrogen than phosphorus or potassium). Poor fruit set can also be caused by heavy rainfall or temperatures that are either too high (above 90 F) or too low (below 55 F).
On most soils, you can sidedress about 1/2 cup of 5-10-5 per plant and work shallowly into the top inch of soil when fruits are about 1 inch in diameter and again when harvest begins.
Keep soil evenly moist to prevent blossom end rot. This can also help prevent cracking when fruit absorbs water too fast after heavy rain following dry conditions.
If tomato varieties are planted in close proximity, pollen from one variety can land on the female part of a blossom, the stigma, of a different variety and lead to some or all hybrid seeds being formed in that fruit. This is commonly referred to as a "cross-pollination" or simply as a "cross." When cross-pollination occurs, the fruit will look perfectly normal in the current season however, the resulting seeds carry genes from each parent and will produce varying progeny in subsequent generations.
If you are not interested in saving seeds, then you can safely ignore cross-pollination issues. Tomato varieties will produce fruit consistent with the varieties planted. Again, any crossing in the current season affects the seeds within the fruit, not the fruit flavor or structure.
If you are attempting to save seeds and maintain a pure tomato variety, some efforts must be taken to avoid cross-pollination. The extent and seriousness of your efforts will depend on the importance of the variety and its intended usage. If the variety is typical, widely available, or intended for home use, then you may welcome a cross as an interesting diversion. However, if the variety is a rare family heirloom, or intended for distribution as a specific named variety, then crosses must be actively avoided.
If you want to be absolutely sure that your tomato seed line remains pure, then you will want to provide a physical barrier to prevent foreign pollen from being introduced. The technique most often used by home growers is called "bagging." It is quite simple but it also is limited with regard to seed production.
To "bag" a tomato means to cover the blossoms before they open. Various materials can be used. Some use floating row cover, others use tulle (bridal veil fabric), pieces of nylon stockings, sheer tricot or other lightweight fabric, or bridal favor bags. Depending on the size of the bags used, the bags must be monitored and removed after pollenization so that the tomato can grow to full size without restriction. After removing the bag, mark the fruit with yarn or a string to identify it when it has reached proper maturity for saving seeds.
It is difficult to collect large quantities of seed using bagging. Fruits do not always form inside the bag. High temperatures and the lack of mechanical movement can hamper pollenization. Lack of mechanical movement is easily corrected by shaking the bagged trusses.
If you are really serious, and you want a large amount of seed that is 100% pure, you could build isolation/screening cages as large as required to house the number of plants you desire.
There are no hard and fast rules to follow with regard to isolation. If you are knowledgeable about the pollinating insects in your locality, you may be able to design a system that reduces natural cross-pollination to a very low level with a small amount of isolation. If you lack specific knowledge about your locality, the following guidelines may be useful.
Generally, tomato varieties should be isolated 20 to 25 feet, and they should have a pollen-producing crop planted between. The objective of the inter planted crop is to divert insects away from the tomatoes. The amount of natural cross-pollination will depend on the factors previously discussed. Generally, organic gardening methods result in many more pollinating insects than would be present in a area where pesticides and tilling have been extensively used.
To obtain 100% seed purity by isolation distance, very large separations are required, possibly a 1/4 mile or more. Obviously, these resources and geography are difficult to achieve. Also, tomato volunteers from previous seasons could remain undetected within the isolation perimeter. Again, if you desire 100% seed purity, look to the physical isolation as provided by bagging or caging.
If you rely on isolation distances, it's best to grow several plants of the same variety and if in a row, harvest fruits from the inner plants and if in a square area, from the interior plants. If only a few plants, it's best to harvest several fruits from each of the two or three plants for seed saving so as to minimize the chance of getting nothing but crossed seed if you chose only one or two fruits.
Heirloom seeds are the gardeners choice for seed-saving from year-to-year. Learning to save seeds is easy and fun with these books. Before you harvest, consider which varieties you might want to save seeds from so that your harvesting practice includes plants chosen for seed saving. Be sure to check out our newest seed packs, available now from Heirloom Organics. The Super Food Garden is the most nutrient dense garden you can build and everything you need is right here in one pack. The Genesis Garden s a very popular Bible Garden collection. The Three Sisters Garden was the first example of companion planting in Native American culture. See all of our brand-new seed pack offerings in our store.
Fruit that is fully ripened on the vine has a much fuller flavor than fruits that are picked early and then allowed to ripen. Many cherry tomatoes, however, have a tendency to crack if they stay on the plant, so they should be picked at the peak of redness, or even a tad before.
Watch the bottoms carefully that's where tomatoes start to ripen. Some varieties, primarily large heirloom types, ripen before they reach full color. Pick tomatoes when the skin still looks smooth and waxy, even if the top hasn't turned its mature color (whether red, purple, pink or golden yellow).
Cut off the top of the plant, or remove all new flower clusters about a month before the first expected frost. That way, you'll direct the plant's energy into ripening existing tomatoes rather than producing new ones that won't have time to mature.
When daytime fall temperatures are consistently below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, fruit will no longer ripen on the vine, so it is time to bring all mature green fruits indoors, either on the vine or off.
Saving tomato seeds is a fairly simple process. Every tomato seed is covered in a gelatinous sack which contains chemicals that inhibit seed germination. This prevents the seeds from sprouting whilst inside the tomato fruit. In nature the fruit drops from the plant and slowly rots away on the ground. This is the natural fermentation process and it is during this that the gelatinous sacks are destroyed. To save tomato seeds yourself you need to duplicate the fermentation process. This will not only remove the gelatinous sack but also kills any seed borne tomato diseases.
Firstly cut the tomato fruits across the middle and then squeeze the tomato seeds and the gel into a container, making sure that you label the container with the tomato variety. The container of tomato seeds then needs to be put to one side to ferment for about three days. During this time the container of seeds will smell horrible and will go mouldy. When the mould has covered the top of the container add water and stir the mixture. The good seeds will sink to the bottom of the container and the mould and hollow seeds can then be poured off. Add more water and continue the progress until only clean seeds remain. You can also put the mould and seeds into a sieve and wash under running water until just the clean seeds remain.
Next spread out the seeds on a glass or ceramic plate to dry, which can take about 12 days, making sure that you label the plate with the tomato variety. The dried seeds can then be put into a labelled envelope. Saved seeds should store for 5 - 10 years if kept in the right conditions.
|Soil Temp for Germ||70-90°F|
|Days to Emergence||14-Jun|
|Soil Temp for Transp||55°F|
|Plant Spacing||See below|
|Seeds per Gram||≈ 280-320|
|Seed Life||3 years|
Lycopersicon lycopersicum The first ripe, juicy tomato of summer is a delicious milestone of the season for gardeners. Each year we test and evaluate more than 250 tomato varieties to bring you the most flavorful, best performing selections, for every desired use. An array of nutrients and antioxidants including the especially potent lycopene, found in its highest concentration in tomatoes, supports healthy eyesight, cardiovascular health, cancer-fighting capacity, and more.
Days to maturity are calculated from date of transplant.
• Determinate tomatoes: grow compactly, sprawling laterally, usually do not require staking, and fruit ripens over a short period of time
• Indeterminate tomatoes: grow on long vines, generally require pruning to 1 or 2 leaders that need to be trellised
• Fertile, well drained raised beds covered with plastic mulch promote early growth and better yields
• Tomatoes are high feeders and will benefit from regular fertilization with Age Old Bloom
• To prevent blossom end rot use a high calcium amendment
• Overwatering can cause fruit to crack
• Not recommended
• Sow seeds in trays 6-8 weeks before anticipated transplant date up-pot into 3-4 inch pots when the first set of true leaves appears
• Strong light and cooler temperatures (60-70°F) prevent plants from getting leggy
• Fertilize with Age Old Grow every 10-14 days
• When transplanting work in compost, 1/2 cup of TSC's Complete fertilizer, and handful of bone meal
• Determinates can be spaced 18-24 inches apart, indeterminates 24-36 inches apart
• Tomatoes can be buried up to the top 2 sets of leaves
• Use Kozy-Coats or Victorian Bell Cloches to protect young plants
Insects & Diseases
• Common insects: Flea beetles and tomato hornworms
• Insect control: Pyrethrin or row cover for flea beetles, and Monterey B.t. for tomato hornworms
• Common diseases: Early and late blight
• Disease prevention: A strict 3-4 year rotation, remove vines at the end of the year, fungicide
KEY TO TOMATO DISEASE RESISTANCE AND TOLERANCE
• HR indicates high resistance.
• IR indicates intermediate resistance.
• AB | Early (Alternaria) Blight
• B | Bacterial Wilt
• F* | Fusarium Wilt
• FOR | Fusarium Crown and Root Rot
• L | Gray Leaf Spot
• LB | Late Blight
• LM | Leaf Mold
• N | Roundworm | Nematode
• PL | Corky Root Rot
• PST | Bacterial Speck
• RK | Root-Knot
• TMV | Tobacco Mosaic Virus
• ToMV* | Tomato Mosaic Virus
• TSWV | Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus
• TYLCV | Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus
• V | Verticillium Wilt
* Numbers indicate specific disease race.
1. Find Out What Tomato Varieties Grow Commercially
Though commercial tomato varieties aren’t on the “favorite” list for most gardeners, researching local commercial tomato growers in your area can get you started down the path of finding well-adapted varieties for your climate. If there are farmers growing tomatoes near you, call and ask them what tomato varieties they grow. Chances are those varieties would also grow in your garden.
And if you buy some locally grown tomatoes at a farm stand, go ahead and plant the seeds. Even if they are hybrids, you’ll still get decent tomatoes. If they’re open-pollinated types, so much the better. Tomatoes grown in your climate should be better adapted to your climate than seeds bought from other regions.
Currant Tomato, Wild Tomato, Spoon Tomato 'White Currant'
Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Small (grape/cherry varieties)
Days to Maturity:
Where to Grow:
This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:
San Luis Obispo, California
On Mar 2, 2013, mommiest from Herndon, VA wrote:
I grew White Currant from Baker Creek seeds in 2010. the location was sunny with plenty of room the vine was huge and bushy, and very prolific. Friends who tasted these off the vine often said the same thing: "Wow." We could not eat these fast enough, and they were delicious, with an intense, well-balanced flavor. I like them better than either Tess's Land Race Currant or Matt's Wild Cherry for flavor.
On Jul 21, 2010, SLO_Garden from San Luis Obispo, CA wrote:
White Currant is very similar to Matt's Wild Cherry. It is tiny, sweet, very prolific, and the plant has huge, sprawling vines that will take over your entire garden if you let them. However, White Currant has an somewhat of an unusual taste in addition to the sweetness (not unpleasant, just unusual). It makes a good snacking tomato.
On Mar 6, 2010, mrstedger from Raleigh, NC (Zone 7b) wrote:
I decided to grow the white currant after reading Leslie Land's blog recommendation. Purchased a single plant in Waynesville, NC last year.
I planted it in the corner of my garden near the stick verbena & the intersection of two paths… Letting this go to vine rather than cage, it grew to nearly 12 feet in diameter! It quickly became a ferny-esque shrub loaded with tiny yellow flowers & quite beautiful from a distance with delicate foliage.
My husband & daughters constantly grazed all summer thru the fall off this one plant. Plenty prolific with clusters of a dozen or more mini-maters as sweet as they can be! Grown organically with no spot or blight which is amazing considering the tomato trainwreck of 2009! This will replace the yellow pear, which didn't do s. read more o well after last year's blight, as our mini tomato- perfect for salads. I will definitely grow this white 'wild' currant again.
On Nov 16, 2007, Loretta_NJ from Pequannock, NJ (Zone 6b) wrote:
My review will be different than any other I've read about this tomato so far. I bought this plant from Cross Country Nursery in NJ and have only grown it one plant, one season. The fruit was the palest yellow, small 1/2" round fruit born on small clusters over the season. It didn't produce a lot at any given time but my conditions aren't prime tomato conditions. However, one plant wouldn't feed a heavy tomato snacker. The plant was about three feet, not huge at all and could easily be grown in a pot.
This was not a sweet tomato for me. The flavor was unique compared to any other tomato I've grown. I would call this a savory tomato with an expensive taste. It was juicy, not at all meally. I really liked it and will be growing it again.
On Aug 11, 2005, zeldonian from Haines Falls, NY (Zone 4b) wrote:
Tasty, like Matt's Wild Cherry, but sweeter and fuller. For me, at least, they produced a little earlier, about 55 days. The yield is not that high, but not bad in good conditions. The best small-fruited tomato I've grown.
Growing tiny Red & Yellow Currant Tomatoes
Hundreds of Marble and Pearl sized tomatoes
If you’ve not yet heard of ‘Red Currant‘ and ‘Yellow Currant‘ tomatoes then you’re in for a treat. These unusual heirloom plants are the ancestors of modern tomato varieties and produce literally hundreds of fruits the size of a marble or smaller. Found growing wild on a Peruvian beach in 1707, their petite size makes them perfect for snacking and adding whole to recipes.
- Currant tomatoes grow in the same way as other cordon tomatoes
- If the side shoots are not pinched out the plants will grow wild and bushy
- I grew red and yellow types and the fruits of both were crisp and semi-sweet
- They tolerate cooler temperatures
- Fruited from July to October in my greenhouse
- Very disease resistant
- Heavy producers — literally hundreds of berries
- The berries range in size from a standard small cherry tomato to the size of a pearl
- In the UK, get plants and seeds here: Dobies of Devon
- In the USA, get them here: ‘Red Currant‘ and ‘Yellow Currant‘
I was sent plants from Dobies of Devon
I’d actually had never heard of currant tomatoes before six tomato plant plugs arrived in the post. They were sent to me by Dobies of Devon, a seed and plant retailer in the United Kingdom, and arrived last year in March.
This was the first time I’d ever had plug plants in the mail before and I was surprised that they held up so well. I wish there were a way to send them without so much plastic packaging though and hope that Dobies and other plant retailers are looking into solutions.
From plugs to full grown plants
I planted the plug plants into a tray with ordinary peat-free compost and then grew them on until May. I then planted the two best of each colour in my greenhouse alongside two other tomato plants that I placed between them. You can see in the image above that the yellow currant tomatoes are on the left, an heirloom pear variety in the middle, and the two plants at the back are the red currant tomatoes.
While the plants were growing I grew lettuces and basil in the trough alongside them. I also watched as the currant tomatoes bushed out and decided to just let them grow in the natural and wild way that they’re used to. And did they grow! They were so vigorous that they crowded out the pear variety both in height and in breadth. Knowing this now, I’ll definitely pinch out the side shoots when I grow this variety again.
I used a criss-cross of bamboo poles to support the vigorous plants
They began fruiting in July
The compost they were planted into was a mixture of homemade garden compost, composted horse manure, and some peat-free multi-purpose compost I bought from a local gardening centre. I kept the plants well watered and fed them with liquid seaweed fertilizer every couple of weeks after they began setting flowers. I also left the greenhouse door open in the day to encourage pollinators to come in and do their work.
Towards the end of July they started fruiting. Long cordons of green fruit ranging in size from a small cherry tomato to the size of a pearl began forming. Then the larger ones started ripening and I was able to pick them for the month of August before we went on holiday.
A Long Fruiting Period
While we were away, our house sitters kept the plants watered and helped themselves to the fruits. When we finally got back home after five weeks away, the plants were still producing! They slowed down in mid-October and by the end of that month I cleared them from the trough and composted the vines. Check out the video below to see how the plants looked on the 21st of October.
Eating Currant Tomatoes
Picking the tomatoes can be a little bit of a chore, which is my only gripe. The fruits are small and delicate and there are just so many to pick! Is that really a bad thing though? If you’re one for picking and eating right off the plant this might be your perfect tomato variety. The flavour of both red and yellow types is sweet yet tart and each berry is the perfect size for snacking.