Currant tomatoes must be the new designer tomato. Or Chihuahua of the Tomato Family. I’ve never heard of them before and really, I’m not sure why you would grow such an itty-bitty tomato other than for garnishing, or simply the novelty of growing a conversation piece. Anybody, help me out here. I don’t get it. But since we’re on the subject of tomatoes this week, here’s an article about these tiny tomatoes from National Home Gardening Club by Elizabeth Noll.
Tomatoes can be the biggest thing in your garden. Towering vines can cover a fence and come back for more. Huge fruits can take over your kitchen table. But tomatoes don’t have to be gargantuan. Meet the currant tomato (Lycopersicon pimpinellifolium), a pea-sized cousin of the cherry tomato. You won’t be slicing these 1/4-inch jewels for sandwiches, but you will be eating them as fast as you can pick them. The small, sweet fruits ripen in clusters on sprawling, indeterminate vines. Though the vines are gangly and are best contained in a cage or trellis, they’re smaller in stature and more delicate than their familiar cousins.
Common name: Currant tomato
Botanical name: Lycopersicon pimpinellifolium
Plant type: Grown as annual in most climates
Height: 2 to 3 feet
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Average, well-drained
• Moisture: Medium
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture and stymie weeds.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: Add 1 inch of compost once or twice in a season.
• By seed
Pests and diseases
• Caterpillars and cutworms may cause some damage.
• Vulnerable to rust, blight, and leaf spot.
• Grow currant tomatoes as you would traditional tomatoes. Cages or trellises help support these plants and make it easier to harvest fruits.
• Currant tomatoes are great little snacks by themselves, and they’re also good in salads.
• Like many other members of the nightshade family, currant tomatoes have poisonous leaves and stems. The only part of the plant that’s edible is the fruit.
• Currant tomatoes will reseed themselves, if you allow the last of the fruit to remain on the ground through the winter and refrain from tilling. Don’t mulch until after the seeds sprout in spring.
• Currant tomatoes will cross-pollinate easily with other tomato plants, so unless you want to experiment, keep them far apart from other varieties.
• ‘Gold Rush’: Heavy bearer of delicious red-orange fruits.
• ‘Sugar Cherry’: Large, extra-sweet fruits.
• ‘Sweet Pea’: Very tiny fruits with rich, sweet flavor.
All in the family
• Currant tomatoes are relatives of the traditional garden tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum), but they’re a different species. They’re similar to wild tomatoes that grow in Central America, where it’s believed that the tomato was domesticated during pre-Columbian times.
• The word “tomato” comes from the Nahuatl word “tomatl.” Nahuatl was the language of the Aztecs.
• Other members of the Solanaceae family include edible plants—pepper, potato, and eggplant—and popular garden flowers like brugmansia, datura, and petunia. The family also contains Nicotiana, the genus that contains cultivated tobacco plants as well as annual species grown for their fragrant flowers.
Where to buy seeds
• Seeds of Change, El Guique, NM, 888-762-7333, www.seedsofchange.com (for gold currant tomato seeds)
• Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Mineral, VA, 540-894-9480, www.southernexposure.com
• Territorial Seed Co., Cottage Grove, OR, 800-626-0866, www.territorialseed.com
• Tomato Growers Supply Co., Fort Myers, FL, 888-478-7333, www.tomatogrowers.com
• Victory Seed Co., Molalla, OR, 503-829-3126, www.victoryseeds.com