This article appeared in the July 2002 issue of Vegetable Production & Marketing News,
edited by Frank J. Dainello, Ph.D., and produced by Extension Horticulture,
Texas Cooperative Extension, The Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas.

Grape Tomatoes
Increasing in Popularity

This article by Lisa Lieberman, appeared in
“Tomato World,” June 2001.

nce upon a time, grape tomatoes were considered a specialty item. Now, as the word about grape tomatoes is catching on, they are finding themselves more in the mainstream, as more retail and food-service customers begin requesting them.

In many instances, stores have cut back on cherry tomatoes, and continue to increase grape tomatoes. The demand for cherries is getting stagnant, but the demand for grape tomatoes is excellent because of their flavor and snackability.

Grape tomatoes are about a half to a third the size of cherry tomatoes, and they’re the perfect size for adding to salads, because they are much easier to get on a salad fork than a cherry tomato. Some claim that, of all the smaller sized tomatoes, grape tomatoes have the most flavor.

Grape tomatoes, however, can be a labor-intensive crop to grow. They are so small that it takes more time to pick them an other varieties. Just like grapes in a vineyard, they form in clusters on a tomato vine, but need to be picked individually.

They should also be picked when the fruit colors up to a pink or light red. If picked before there is enough pink, they won’t sweeten up enough. Conversely, if they’re picked when there is too much red, the tomatoes won’t hold up for successful marketing and merchandising. If picked at just the right pink color stage, however, grape tomatoes will generally hold up for one or two weeks.

Grape tomatoes are a very difficult crop to grow. Fertilizer is key, and must be applied at just the fight time and in the correct amounts. In addition, these tomatoes are also very sensitive to cold.

Grape tomatoes were originally brought over from Thailand to Mexico, and sold under the patented trade name “Bryan Tomatoes,” says Robert Schueller, assistant marketing director at Melissa’s World Variety, Los Angeles, California.

In Thailand, grape tomatoes, which are a cross between roma tomatoes, tear-drop tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes, are popular snack items that are eaten in place of peanuts in bars, Schueller explains. Bryan Tomatoes have been available in Mexico for the past five years, and have been available in the United States, mostly in California, for the past three or four years, he says, adding that Melissa’s, which markets Bryan tomatoes, saw a 50 percent increase in sales last year.

Consumer demand for Bryan tomatoes has been growing, and competition has become much more fierce. New competitors have come into the game, as growers in Baja California and Florida have planted copy-cat varieties, according to Schueller.

A couple of other new varieties gaining in popularity are F, Santa, and Lucias.