If you’re looking for a unique new crop to grow in your garden this year, then currant tomatoes may be right up your alley. Currant tomatoes are a fruit you may have never heard of before but once you try them, you’ll want them in your garden every year.
Even if you’re not a tomato lover, these tiny toms may change your mind. They changed mine anyway. This is why I’ve written this guide to explain everything you need to know about growing this sweet garden treat and give you the tips and tricks that will set your currant tomatoes up for success this season.
What are currant tomatoes?
Currant tomatoes are tiny, sweet, heirloom cherry tomatoes. Individual currant tomatoes are about the size of a pea and more closely resemble a berry than the conventional large tomato we all know and love.
They grow in clusters in much the same way that larger cherry tomatoes would. The difference is that you get so many more individual fruits. Sometimes hundreds of them!
Currant tomatoes can be a great alternative for those who aren’t a fan of the acidity of more common and larger tomato varieties. Their bite-sized sweetness makes them the perfect snack to have on hand and a great addition to any garden.
Best soil conditions for currant tomatoes
Like most tomato varieties, currant tomatoes prefer fertile loamy soil that has good drainage. The soil pH should be between 6 and 7, leaning slightly on the acidic side.
If you’re not sure what your soil pH is, you can get a basic pH testing kit at your local garden or farm store. You can also get a complete soil test done through your local agricultural extension agency to better understand what other nutrients your soil may need.
Adding compost to your garden in the spring is generally good practice when you get ready to plant anything. So, you may want to consider topping off your beds before you plant your tomatoes to give them their best shot at thriving.
Fertilizing currant tomatoes
For tomatoes to grow lots of beautiful fruit, the soil should have adequate levels of phosphorus. As I mentioned above, doing a soil test will tell you if you have good phosphorus levels in your soil.
If, after doing your soil test, you find that your soil is lacking in phosphorus or lacks fertility in general, fertilizing may be the way to go. Composting will help significantly in raising phosphorus levels in your soil. You can also try adding other organic materials like rock phosphate or bone meal to increase phosphorus levels.
When looking at the numbers on fertilizer bags, those that are higher in phosphorus will have a higher middle number. For example, 0-18-0 or 10-20-10 would all have higher phosphorus levels than a general 10-10-10 fertilizer.
But, if you’re just looking to give your currant tomatoes a bit of a boost when you plant them, a 10-10-10 fertilizer may be the way to go for you. This means that the fertilizer is equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
When using any fertilizer, make sure to read the instructions carefully so that you are adding the proper amount to your plants. Too much nitrogen and your tomatoes may not set fruit. Too much potassium and you run the risk of developing chlorosis, a virus that causes the leaves to turn yellow and die.
You can check out this article for a more in-depth breakdown of tomato fertilizing.
Having well-draining soil is important for currant tomatoes because they don’t like to have wet feet. Consistently waterlogged soil can lead to root rot in your currant tomatoes and ultimately kill them.
If you’re not sure of the moisture content in your soil, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and feel it. I like to poke my fingers in the soil about two or three inches to check how it feels.
The soil shouldn’t feel soaking wet. But it shouldn’t feel bone dry either. You want the soil to be consistently moist.
It’s also important to mention that you should try not to get water on the leaves if at all possible. Of course, we can’t control the rain getting on the leaves. But, if you’re watering by hand, make sure to water deeply down by the base of the plant instead of from above.
Tomato leaves that are constantly wet are much more susceptible to diseases like tomato blight which can quickly spread to other tomato plants and ruin your crop for the year!
When to plant currant tomatoes
Tomatoes can be a tricky crop to grow because they take quite a bit of time to reach full maturity but aren’t at all cold tolerant. Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough warm days in the season to grow tomatoes!
To ensure that your currant tomatoes have ample time to reach maturity, start the seeds indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before your last regional frost date. Not sure when that is? Here’s a website that will help you figure it out. Simply type in your zip code and it will give you the first and last frost date for your area.
In general, you’ll want to start your tomato seeds around the end of March or early April. This way, they’ll be ready to go in the ground outside by late May or early June. For those in colder climate zones, expect to plant your tomatoes outside later in June.
As your currant tomato seedlings grow indoors, the container they’re in must grow with them. You’ll know that the seedlings are ready for a bigger pot when they develop their first true leaves. You may also start to see some yellowing of the leaves.
If you keep your plants in a container that’s too small for them, they run the risk of becoming root-bound and their growth will be stunted.
One of the most important things you can do to promote fruit growth in your currant tomatoes is to prune them. This way, the plant can focus most of its energy on growing fruit instead of growing more leaves.
Pruning the lower leaves of your transplants before planting them outside is a great way to keep them from growing bushy and out of control.
This also includes removing the “suckers” which are offshoots that start to grow between a side stem and the main stem. For more information on suckers and general tomato pruning, check out this article.
Best methods for staking currant tomatoes
Currant tomatoes are indeterminate meaning that they will keep growing until something like frost or disease kills them. Because they can grow to be quite large, it is highly recommended that you stake them to give them extra support.
Here are some different staking methods you can try in your garden:
For this method, you’ll need T-posts and twine. The idea is that your tomato plants are being supported between two pieces of twine that have been wrapped around two T-posts on either end of the garden bed.
You want to start twining the tomatoes very soon after you’ve planted them in the ground. Then, as they grow, you’ll continue to add twine for support, moving higher up the T-posts as the plant grows.
This has been my preferred tomato support method for as long as I’ve been growing and I find that the clean-up is also pretty easy at the end of the season. I can save the T-posts for next year and throw the twine away.
Another method to support your currant tomatoes would be to trellis them from a string that hangs down from some sort of horizontal frame. This frame could be some kind of wooden bar that you’ve fashioned yourself or a crossbar higher up in a greenhouse. You have a lot of creative freedom here.
This method involves a little more training than the Florida weave method to make sure that the tomato plants stay on the string.
Pruning your tomato plants so that there is only one stem is also important with this method. You don’t want your trellis system to become unmanageable. We have a great article that explains step-by-step the best way to set up your own string trellising system.
Of course, there are always good old-fashioned tomato cages. This method is a lot easier than other methods of staking and twining because it’s as simple as sticking the cage in the ground and then never thinking about it again.
But, the downside is that tomato plants can outgrow their cages leaving you with an unruly mess to sort through when harvesting and cleaning up in the fall. The cages can also prove to be difficult to store as they’re quite bulky.
No trellis support
I have met some gardeners who actually prefer not to stake or twine their tomatoes at all. Letting your currant tomatoes grow in a bush on the ground certainly makes less work for you in terms of pruning and staking.
Tomatoes that grow on the ground tend to produce much more fruit than tomato plants that aren’t touching the ground. But the downside to this method is that the fruit is usually of lower quality.
Tomatoes that are touching the ground are also more susceptible to disease, will rot quicker, and are more likely to be munched on by insects in the garden. For me, this method is a little risky. But, you may find that it works well for you in your garden.
When to harvest currant tomatoes
Your currant tomatoes should reach maturity in about 65-80 days from when they were transplanted. Unlike other tomato varieties, currant tomatoes should be harvested when they’re completely mature as they won’t continue to ripen as much off of the vine.
Month-wise, you can expect your currant tomatoes to be ready for harvest between mid-July and early August.
Pay attention to the color of the fruit. Red currant tomatoes should look completely red and have no hint of yellow to them. White currant tomatoes should be a bright yellow-orangish color and shouldn’t have any green color left to them.
If you’re ever unsure about their ripeness, don’t be afraid to taste one. Ripe currant tomatoes should taste more on the sweeter side. If they taste very tart, they’re not ready yet!
|Days to Maturity for Common Currant Tomato Varieties|
|Variety||Days to Maturity|
How to prepare currant tomatoes
I love currant tomatoes because they’re so versatile when it comes to incorporating them into recipes. If you need a quick snack, you can pick them straight from the vine and enjoy them like you would any common berry.
They’re also great for tomato jams and jellies since their taste is on the sweeter side and they take much less prep work than other tomato varieties. Use them as a salad topper to add a burst of tomatoey freshness to your greens. The possibilities are endless.
Here are some other great dishes to add currant tomatoes to:
- Currant tomato sauce
- Tomato relish
- Sweet tomato juice
- Roasted currant tomatoes
Am I making you hungry yet?
Hopefully, by now this article has convinced you to try growing currant tomatoes yourself. To recap, here are the important things you need to know about growing these tiny toms.
- Currant tomatoes prefer good draining, loamy soil with a pH between 6 and 7.
- Your soil should be tested to make sure it’s not lacking any of the necessary nutrients currant tomatoes need.
- Maintain soil moisture by consistently watering your plants and make sure not to water the leaves to prevent the spread of disease.
- Start the seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost, then transplant them outdoors.
- Choose your preferred method for staking your tomato plants to give them support and keep them from growing out of control.
- Currant tomatoes are ready for harvest about 65-80 after transplanting.
“FIrst and Last Frost Dates” Morning Chores https://morningchores.com/frost-dates/ Accessed 25 August, 2022.