A relatively new class of tomato, the grape tomato has quickly become one of the most popular types of tomato in North America. It is widely believed that the grape tomato was first bred in Southeast Asia, as a much smaller variant of plum tomato. The Santa F1 grape tomato was first introduced in the United States in 1997. Since then, grape tomatoes have been wildly popular, and are used throughout North America. Grape tomatoes are not considered hybrid, as they are grown from only one type of tomato, but they are not considered heirloom because the breed is not over fifty years old. Grape tomatoes have a flavor that is significantly sweeter than other tomatoes, and they are slightly firm when fresh and raw, meaning they offer a very appealing texture. They are small, about the size of an actual grape, and roughly the same shape. Like most tomatoes, they are green when unripe, and grow progressively redder as they ripen.
Grape tomatoes are generally used raw, or very lightly cooked, since uncooked grape tomatoes are very sweet, juicy and succulent. Additionally, grape tomatoes are delicious raw due to their very low seed content when compared with larger tomatoes. Raw grape tomatoes are commonplace in tossed salads. Because of the grape tomatoes sweetness, they work well in acidic dishes, particularly with vinegar based salad dressings. A simple, easy and delicious salad dish can be made with grape tomatoes, balsamic or red wine vinegar, olive oil, basil and oregano. Halve the grape tomatoes if desired, combine the ingredients in a bowl and toss until the tomatoes are coated, and salt lightly. Although not typically used in sauce making, grape tomatoes can be used to make certain pasta dishes. Burst tomato pasta is an excellent example. Simply sauté the tomatoes in olive oil until they begin to burst open. Add salt and pepper, then add cooked pasta to the pan, and stir to coat. Add fresh basil and parmesan, and serve with a fresh side salad, and hot garlic bread. Simply coating whole grape tomatoes in olive oil, diced garlic, salt, pepper and thyme and roasting them for about ten minutes at 450 degrees makes a wonderful, light side dish. Grape tomatoes and olives pair well together in salads and pasta dishes, as the sweetness of the tomato compliments the saltiness of the olive. Roasted asparagus can be taken to another level by roasting grape tomatoes with them, same with artichokes and eggplant.
When picking fresh grape tomatoes, look for ones with firm, vibrantly colored skin. Ripe grape tomatoes will be uniform in color, usually bright red, but sometimes yellow. Green tomatoes are unripe, and should be allowed to ripen until uniformly red. Grape tomatoes can be kept at room temperature for roughly a week before spoiling. We recommend not refrigerating tomatoes, because storing tomatoes below fifty degrees will cause sugars in the tomato to break down, causing the tomato to become starchy, and coarse in texture. There is some controversy over this point in the culinary world, but studies have shown that cold temperatures cause the flavor and texture of tomatoes to degrade. Always thoroughly wash fresh tomatoes before use.