The cherry tomato, introduced in the 1970s, is one of the smallest fruits of the tomato family, and, as its name indicates, is generally the size of a cherry. As with any other type, a cherry tomato is low in sodium, fat, and cholesterol, but rich in vitamins and minerals. Their sweet taste and ease of use make cherry tomatoes a great complement to pastas, salads, and other dishes, but they also work well as a main ingredient. Though available year-round, cherry tomatoes can be grown and stored at home with relatively little effort.
Haim Rabinowitch and Nachum Kedar, two Israeli academic researchers, genetically engineered the cherry tomato in 1973. Their goal was to produce a sturdier tomato variety that was easier to harvest, and their success paved the way for other Israeli scientists to introduce virus-resistant and dripless tomatoes. As a result of their work, cherry tomatoes can be grown at home using only a few gardening tools and little maintenance. It is best to plant cherry tomatoes in June or purchase them between June and October, but many grocers sell them all year.
Tomato varieties often have distinct flavors, sizes, and colors. The large red beefsteak tomato is most common, and compared to it, the cherry tomato is sweeter, making the acidic quality that tomatoes are known for less noticeable. In addition, a cherry tomato is typically about 1 inch (2.54 cm) in diameter. Cherry tomatoes are usually red or yellow, red being the sweetest, but other colors exist. Thus, they are often used to not only add flavor, but also to make dishes aesthetically pleasing.
Their small size makes cherry tomatoes an easy-to-add ingredient or garnish, and their pungent taste makes them great as a dish on their own. Tomatoes are vegetable-like fruits, so cherry tomatoes work well in salads, on pastas, or mixed into a stir-fry or tomato salsa. If used as a sole ingredient or the base of a dish, they can be drizzled with olive oil and spiced to taste, and some people consume them unseasoned like other small fruits. Cherry tomatoes are often eaten raw, but they can be sauteed, grilled, or cooked other ways. Like all tomatoes, cherry tomatoes have no fat or cholesterol, and they provide several nutrients, including vitamins A and C, potassium, and lycopene, an antioxidant that helps prevent cancer.
Selecting and storing cherry tomatoes is similar to methods used for other varieties. Shoppers or gardeners should pick firm fruits free of bruising. Refrigeration and sunlight damages tomatoes, so they should be stored at room temperature unless they cannot be used within a week after ripening. Any plastic covering on store-bought tomatoes should also be removed. Cherry tomatoes can also be roasted then frozen or preserved in oil.