Produce Pete: Why I’m Crazy About Grape Tomatoes

They last longer than cherry tomatoes and travel well. And they're especially delicious in my wife Bette's easy tomato salad!

Grape tomatoes on vine
Photo: Shutterstock/eurobanks

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m crazy about tomatoes. I grow them, talk about them constantly at home and on NBC Weekend Today in New York, and even dream about them! Growing up in our family business, Napolitano’s Produce in Bergenfield, we not only sold tons of farm-fresh tomatoes to customers, but we also ate them all the time—either raw, in sandwiches, in the fresh tomato sauce my mother made, or in a variety of other dishes.

Although it’s still technically winter, I’m excited that warm weather—and tomato season in New Jersey—are right around the corner. And right now, grape tomatoes are an inexpensive, plentiful and great-tasting option that you shouldn’t pass up!

Small and grape-like in shape (hence their name), grape tomatoes are low in calories and high in vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants, lycopene, and fiber. Grape tomatoes help reduce inflammation, protect against heart disease and certain types of cancer, and also promote healthy vision and skin.

Produce Pete discusses grape tomatoes with anchorwoman Pat Battle during a recent segment of NBC's "Weekend Today in New York"

Produce Pete discusses the virtues of grape tomatoes with anchorwoman Pat Battle during a recent segment of NBC’s Weekend Today in New YorkPhoto: Courtesy of NBC/Pete Napolitano

Because grape tomatoes grow in clusters on a small vine, harvesting them can be very labor-intensive. The fruit must be picked at a point when the color is changing from light pink to a hint of red, as a green grape tomato won’t continue to ripen off the vine, and a red grape tomato will be overripe by the time it reaches store shelves. However, grape tomatoes enjoy a year-round growing season (California is a major producer), so they’re typically available even when other tomatoes are out of season or prohibitively expensive.

Grape tomatoes are about half the size of cherry tomatoes, and while they may not always be as sweet, they last longer and travel well. I always tell people never to refrigerate other tomato varieties, as it turns them mealy and kills their flavor and texture—but I haven’t seen that happen with grape tomatoes.

Before serving, rinse grape tomatoes under cool running water, then drain them on a paper towel. You can leave them right on the dampened towel to cut them; it will provide enough friction to hold them in place. If you’re serving grape tomatoes in a salad, it’s better to quarter rather than halve them. Quartering creates more surface area that can cling to other ingredients, which helps prevent the tomatoes from sliding to the bottom of the salad bowl.

We’re all huge tomato lovers in the Napolitano household, and nothing beats my wife Bette’s grape tomato salad, an easy-to-make dish that really spotlights the delicious simplicity of grape tomatoes. I hope you enjoy this tasty, healthy late-winter/early-spring treat!

Bette’s Easy Grape Tomato Salad Italiano

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano

Cut grape tomatoes in half and place in a salad bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Toss again right before serving, and enjoy.

About “Produce Pete” Napolitano
With over 70 years of experience in the produce industry, New Jersey’s own “Produce Pete” Napolitano is a renowned fruit and vegetable expert, author and TV personality who’s appeared on a highly popular segment on WNBC’s Weekend Today in New York, broadcast every Saturday morning for over 30 years. For more information, visit

About Susan Bloom
A regular contributor to New Jersey Monthly and a variety of other well-known local and national publications, Susan Bloom is an award-winning New Jersey-based freelance writer who covers topics ranging from health and lifestyle to business, food and more. She’s collaborated with Produce Pete on a broad range of articles for over a decade.

Pete and Susan are the co-authors of Pete’s award-winning memoir/cookbook, They Call Me Produce Pete, available on Pete’s website and wherever books are sold.

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