The Difference Between Grape and Cherry Tomatoes

Just the right size for picking and eating whole, cherry and grape tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme) are small-fruited tomato types. Cherry tomatoes are round, juicy and tend to be thick-skinned. Grape tomatoes are oblong, thinner skinned and have drier flesh. Native to South America, tomatoes, including grape and cherry varieties, are frost-tender perennials hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11. They grow as annuals in zones 9 and below. Taken to Europe in the 1500s, tomatoes now grow worldwide.

Bowl with grape tomatoes
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A bowl of ripe, grape tomatoes.

Growth Habits

Girls hands holding cherry tomatoes
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A girl is holding cherry tomatoes.

Grape and cherry tomatoes have both determinate and indeterminate growth varieties. Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing for the life of the plant, producing a vining growth. Determinate tomatoes stop growing, usually at around 3 to 4 feet tall, for a bush type plant suitable for containers as well as garden growing. The grape tomatoes "Santa" and "Jolly Girl" have determinate growth, and varieties "Sweet Hearts" and "Five Star Grape" have indeterminate growth. Cherry tomatoes range from indeterminate, sprawling plants such as early-maturing "Black Cherry" and "Sweet Million" to dwarf varieties such as 18-inch-tall "Tiny Tim," which produces fruit in 60 days.

Fruit Taste and Texture

Cherry tomatoes
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Cherry tomatoes on the vine.

Both cherry and grape tomatoes have a sweet flavor when compared to larger tomatoes. Some varieties are so sweet it's almost like eating candy, such as cherry tomatoes "Sweet 100,'' which is indeterminate at 65 to 70 days, and "SunSugar," a 62-day indeterminate plant. "Sakura Honey" is a sweet grape tomato with indeterminate growth. Grape tomatoes, because of their thin skins and less juicy texture, are easier to eat than cherry tomatoes because they don't squirt juice when you bite them.

Fruit Colors

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Colorful cherry tomatoes in a bowl.

Cherry tomatoes come in a wider range of fruit colors than do grape tomatoes. Both types come in red, pink, yellow and orange. In addition, cherry tomatoes come in green, black, brown and ivory. Some examples are "Green Grape," which despite the name is a cherry tomato that is determinate with 70-day maturation; "Snow White," ripening to ivory on indeterminate, 75-day plants, and "Black Cherry," with complex-flavored black fruit on indeterminate, 65-day vines.

Varietal Origins

Cherry Tomatoes On Vine
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Growing cherry tomatoes.

Originally, the wild tomato that developed into cultivated tomatoes had small fruits and resembled cherry tomatoes. Genetic work summarized by researchers Yuling Bai and Pim Lindhout shows that cherry tomatoes result from a mixture of wild and cultivated tomatoes. Grape tomatoes came from a Taiwanese seed company, which produced the "Santa F1" hybrid. Introduced into the U.S. in 1996, it was renamed "grape tomato." There are now other kinds of grape tomatoes as well.

Growth Considerations

Grape Tomatoes
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A pile of grape tomatoes.

Cherry and grape tomatoes have similar growing needs. Indeterminate plants grow best on support systems such as trellises, stakes or tomato cages. Bush types usually don't need support. Tomatoes need at least eight hours of sunlight daily, well-draining soil rich in organic material, and regular water and fertilizer -- such as 5-5-5 applied as a side dressing when fruits start to form and every three weeks following. Scatter a small handful of fertilizer evenly around each plant and dig it into the top soil layer.