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  • Cornell AgriTech
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Horticulture Section
  • Agriculture
  • Food
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Horticulture
Cherry tomatoes are a staple in home gardens, farm fields and local food markets, but growing them can be a challenging undertaking. Now, a new variety from Cornell AgriTech provides improved yield and shelf-life while enhancing both visual and culinary appeal.

A cross between heirloom tomato varieties, Cherry Ember was developed by Phillip Griffiths, associate professor of horticulture in the School of Integrative Plant Science, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The new tomato is now on sale through Fruition Seeds, an organic seed company based in Naples, New York.

“One of the problems with cherry tomatoes is that they tend to have thin skins, and so half of them crack on the plant, and the half that you pick crack after a few days,” Griffiths said. “Cherry Ember is a little firmer, with more of the post-harvest characteristics of a grape tomato.”

Its thicker skin and meatier flesh helps keep the fruit from cracking both in the field and after being harvested — even during high rainfall seasons, which pose problems for thinner skins.

“The increased shelf-stability is a very important attribute of this variety,” Griffiths said, “especially when combined with high yield, desirable aesthetics and a smaller, single-bite size.”

When Petra Page-Mann saw Cherry Ember at one of Griffiths' field trials in 2019, it stood out like a “luminescent gem.” As the co-owner of Fruition Seeds, she has seen increased grower interest in unique color and flavor combinations. With its metallic gold stripes, rich taste and ease to grow, Page-Mann was eager to add the new variety to their sales portfolio, but it still needed a name.

Last fall, she launched a naming contest on Fruition Seeds’ Instagram account with Griffiths’ support. They sorted through more than a thousand suggestions before holding the final runoff vote, where Cherry Ember emerged as a clear winner.

“It’s a great introduction to life beyond the red tomato,” Page-Mann said. “It’s like a classic red tomato in terms of flavor, but there are brighter notes, especially if you let it sit on the vine. Then you get bright fruit flavors.”

Cherry Ember also gives growers something to look forward to as early as mid-July since it ripens just 65 days after being planted and continues to grow until the first frost.

“We love Griff’s creativity with visuals and flavors, as well as his focus on regional adaptation,” Page-Mann said. “We’ve trialed dozens of his tomatoes over the past few years, and they are a dream to grow and sell in New York.”

This article also appears in the Cornell Chronicle.

Erin Rodger is the senior manager of marketing and communications for Cornell AgriTech.

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