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How to enjoy deliciously sweet cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are in season from November to February. Late spring and summer is the best time to buy New Zealand grown Cherry tomatoes. This is when these juicy, sweet fruits are plump and bursting with delicious flavour. It's also when they're at their most affordable and available in a wide range of different varieties.

Buying fresh produce when it’s in season is a great way to save money on groceries. To make the most of your weekly food budget, check out our fresh market update for advice on affordable seasonal food to buy right now.

 

12 creative ways to cook cherry tomatoes

There are so many ways to enjoy these tiny fruits when in season from the classic Caprese salad to a simple bruschetta topping. You can build an entire dish around a low cost punnet of cherry tomatoes with just a handful of additional pantry staple ingredients.  Or elevate them to super star status as the hero ingredient in a splendid summer tomato tart. 

Cherry tomatoes

If you're looking for creative inspiration, we share our favourite go to cherry tomato recipe ideas below:

  1. Make a simple Italian Caprese salad with sweet basil leaves and sliced fresh mozzarella
  2. Roasting cherry tomatoes with olive oil, fresh herbs and garlic cloves until they burst open, releasing all of their sweet juices creates the perfect summer side dish. For a simple light lunch, serve with crusty bread.
  3. Cherry tomatoes with extra garlic add rich flavour and sweetness to a slow cooked pasta sauce which also makes a delicious topping for bruschetta. Once you've prepared the simple sauce recipe above, blend with creamy ricotta cheese and add to cooked pasta. Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
  4. A classic Middle Eastern dish, Shakshuka is a simple one pan dish combining sweet cherry tomatoes (canned are perfect), red pepper, onions, garlic, cumin, chilli, smoked paprika and eggs poached in the sauce. This cherry tomato recipe creates a nourishing and filling vegetarian dish, which you can add feta cheese or goat cheese to and eat any time of the day.
  5. Add halved cherry tomatoes to grilled cheese on toast, or top avocado on toast and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper
  6. Pop these bite sized treasures into lunch boxes just as they are with small cubes of cheese
  7. Add sun dried cherry tomatoes to olives and olive oil to make a tasty tapenade. Wonderful when spread onto bruschetta
  8. Cherry tomatoes add a refreshing sweetness to homemade tomato salsa. Just grab your nachos and dip in
  9. A really easy recipe for special occasions is a cherry tomato and feta cheese tart which is beautiful when served with charred asparagus and buttered Jersey bennes.
  10. Serve lightly roasted vine ripened heirloom tomatoes with grilled chicken or fish pan fried in butter.
  11. Cherry tomatoes can be halved and tossed into a couscous salad with colourful capsicums, onions and courgettes. Take the leftovers to work for lunch the next day.Cherry tomatoes can be enjoyed two ways on a pizza. Spread your homemade cherry tomato sauce over the pizza base then add cherry tomato halves to the topping with fresh basil and sliced mozzarella

Types of cherry tomatoes

These tiny bite sized fruits are available in a variety of different types and we explain the key differences below.

Cherry tomatoes

Sweet cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are the sweetest type of tomato. They're perfectly round like cherries, with a thin skin and high water content making them deliciously juicy. These super sweet flavour bombs come in red, yellow, purple and orange colours, which appear to make no difference to their taste. When cooked, the skins literally burst open releasing the flavorful tomato juice which is prized in tomato based curries, sauces and stews. Enjoy them as the hero in a simple cherry tomato salad or when they're bursting with flavour in your favourite cherry tomato recipes.

Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes vs Grape tomatoes
Grape tomatoes are smaller and more oblong in shape, like grapes. They're not as sweet, have a thicker, meaty skin and are less juicy. They have a longer shelf life than cherry tomatoes. Grape tomatoes can be used interchangeably with cherry tomatoes.
Cherry tomatoes vs Roma plum tomatoes
Plum tomatoes are larger and oval in shape. They have a tough skin and soft flesh with fewer seeds. They have a lower water content and a sweet, acidic flavour, which is why they're perfect for making tomato sauces. You might see these labelled as San Marzano plum tomatoes and Roma plum tomatoes. Plum tomatoes can be stored in the fridge to slow down the ripening process, whereas cherry tomatoes are better left out on the benchtop.
Cherry tomatoes vs Cocktail tomatoes
Cocktail tomatoes are larger than cherry tomatoes with fewer seeds. They have a distinctive herbaceous aroma and sweet fruity taste. Grown and sold on the vine, they continue to naturally ripen after harvesting. Cocktail tomatoes can be sliced in salads and are even more delicious roasted. You might see these labelled as Campari.
Cherry tomatoes vs Heirloom tomatoes
Passed down for generations, Heirlooms are prized for their deep tomato aroma and rich earthy flavour which is both sweet and tangy. Larger than Cherry tomatoes, they are available in a variety of colours and all have a firm, meaty texture making them incredibly versatile in the kitchen.
Cherry tomatoes vs regular tomatoes
It's easy to tell the difference between a cherry tomato and a regular tomato. Regular tomatoes are larger and oval in shape, whilst cherry tomatoes are round and much smaller. Regular tomatoes have less water content and more seeds. Cherry tomatoes are best eaten or cooked whole, whereas regular tomatoes can be sliced in sandwiches and salads or used as an ingredient in cooked dishes.

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How to store cherry tomatoes

We recommend you keep fresh cherry tomatoes in a bowl on the kitchen bench. Like bananas, they give off ethylene gas, so keep them away from other fruits to prevent over ripening. If your kitchen is extremely hot, or they are ripening quickly, place your tomatoes in a bag and transfer to the refrigerator which will prolong their shelf life and prevent food waste. Cherry tomatoes are best eaten and enjoyed at room temperature.
 

Buy canned cherry tomatoes when fresh are out of season

When fresh tomatoes aren’t in season, you can save money and buy canned Italian cherry tomatoes. These deliver all of the flavour you need for rich tomato sauces and wintery stews. The bonus, you don’t have to pay out of season tomato prices. Cherry tomatoes are picked and preserved at the height of the tomato season, when they're at the peak of sweetness. The canning process begins by gently softening the skins so they add instant texture to thicken soups and sauces. Canned cherry tomatoes are a versatile pantry staple with a very long shelf life.

Cherry tomatoes

How to preserve cherry tomatoes

If you have a bumper crop of ripe cherry tomatoes don't let them go to waste. You can extend their life by preserving them. Then you can enjoy them throughout the year.

You can freeze cherry tomatoes for up to 6 months

The simplest method of preserving cherry tomatoes is to freeze them whole whilst fresh, which involves batch freezing on trays before placing them in airtight freezer bags. You can also half cherry tomatoes and oven roast with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper before freezing. There’s little nutritional difference between fresh versus frozen vegetables. They can then be cooked straight from frozen in soups and sauces without the need to defrost. An alternative method is to make a rich tomato sauce with the wonderfully fresh flavours of fresh basil, fresh oregano, thyme and garlic. Then portion and freeze in airtight containers for quick midweek family meals. 

Make your own sun dried tomatoes

If you have one, you can use a dehydrator to remove the moisture and dry cherry tomatoes. You can also lay them out in the sun to dry if it's really hot.

Have a go at canning cherry tomatoes

Fill a glass jar with tomatoes, top with boiling water and a 1 tsp of bottled lemon juice or citric acid. You can also partially cook the tomatoes for 5 minutes before canning in their own juices. Canned cherry tomatoes are perfect for using later in cooked stews, soups and stews.

 

Eating well for less

Buying fruit and vegetables when they are in season means you'll  always have our fresh guarantee, with food at its tastiest, cheapest, and most nutritious. It’s the perfect way to make your weekly food budget stretch further and to eat well for less. Discover what fruits are in season here. If you’d like to find out what’s fresh at this time of year, visit our Fresh Market Update.