Tomatoes Worth Growing: White Currant

I have a special place in my heart for currant tomatoes. They’re wild and free-growing. They are quite literally their own species (Lycopersicon pimpinellifolium). Naughty, unruly, and rebellious, they will blanket the garden in a webbing of lace-like foliage if you turn your attention away for even a moment. They are out of control and promiscuous. They readily cross-pollinate with other tomatoes in the garden, spreading their genes where you don’t want them. And once they get started, they never seem to stop producing legions of the tiniest, pop-in-your-mouth fruit.

They are too much, and yet I always go back for more.

Of all of the currants I have grown, ‘White Currant’ is the one that I have decided I can no longer live without. The pale, cream coloured fruit is sweet and a little bit tangy. The flavour is distinct. So many months from summer and I can almost imagine the taste now, but I can’t quite find the words to describe it.

The details:

  • 75 days
  • Big Indeterminate/currant variety
  • Open-pollinated
  • Currant (half the size of a cherry)
  • Creamy white with a touch of yellow/translucent
  • Ripens: Mid-late season
  • Story: Unknown.
  • Container Growing: You’ll need a really big pot, 16?+ deep.
  • Further Notes: Stake diligently. This plant is an octopus.

With dozens of options to choose from, ‘White Currant’ is the first tomato that I reach for as a sweet snack while I’m out in the garden. I love it fresh, on salads, slow roasted whole, made into jam/jelly, and pickled. It’s pale, yellow colour made sense paired with lemon rind and tarragon in a pickle and there is always so much unripe fruit at the end of the season, that I’ve taken to pickling them as well to use as a condiment and a Bloody Mary garnish.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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12 thoughts on “Tomatoes Worth Growing: White Currant

  1. How do you keep it from pollinating your other tomatoes? Do you plant them far from the others?
    Or, is that only an issue if you save seeds?
    I love teeny tomatoes for snacking in the garden too, and this one sounds great!

    • It doesn’t matter if you’re just eating the tomatoes, but when saving seed I protect the flowers of the varieties I am saving seed from. If you have the space, distance will work, too. I just don’t have the room to separate them properly.

  2. When a plant’s spread is described as “Octopus”, I am only MORE intrigued to grow it.
    Must look into getting some!
    [and that pale color is divine!]

  3. What a great photo. Little tomatoes are great for “snackscaping”. I need to give currant tomatoes a go.

    So tired of winter – growing pea shoots, broccoli sprouts and pots of fenegreek indoors until it’s time to start tomatoes, etc.

  4. I ordered a starter plant of these that will be shipped during the week of our last frost date. So excited to hear a good review!

  5. I planted wild ones last year that look similar but were red and you are right: they grew all over like a crazy vine! Our dog loves them though so they will be planted again this year for sure!

  6. Several years back a biologist wrote that currant tomatoes cause outcrossing in gardens but never had any facts to back up that assertion. Somehow this misconception continues to spread.

    It’s actually the OTHER way around, Currants are more likely to outcross (seed becomes impure) from regular tomatoes. There seed purity is more likely to get messed up!

    Tomato flowers, whether they be the regular species or currant flower, all have a female part (style/stigma) that receives the pollen and starts off as enclosed by an anther cone (fused males parts). As a result, bees and other pollinators generally have NO access to reach the stigma to introduce foreign pollen. When pollinators work tomato flowers, pollen falls out onto them from the anther cone hole.

    Here is an example of the most common kind of bee to work tomato flowers (in most of the US). Most people call these “sweat bees”. Notice it is working the end the pollen comes out which allows pollen to fall out onto it.

    Normal flower

    Normal tomatoes (and some currants) do not rely on bees or pollinators at all. They are inbreeders and readily accept their own pollen. Only in times of stress do their stomas occasionally exhert.

    However SOME currant lines are outbreeders. These kind of currants have their stigmas exhert out beyond the anther cone which makes it easy to introduce foreign pollen and facilitate outcrossing. The outcrossing types also have been shown to express UV patterns which we cannot see but insects can. Normal tomatoes Solanum lycopersicum do not have these UV patterns (their flowers rely on self pollination). These UV pattern/colorings attracts pollinators to currants which is another reason that makes them more likely to outcross and receive pollen from some other source.

    It’s a little hard to see them but here is an example of a currant flower with exherted stigmas

    Now normal tomato flowers can have problems which make the stigma exhert (genetic shape of fruit, too fast of nitrogen uptake, excessive heat causing fast growth, herbicide exposure) or otherwise cause gaps or tears in the anther cones which provide direct access to the stigma (rough shouldered, fluted or what are called fasciated types). This makes these kinds of flowers opem to outcrossing. So when you have currants and these kinds of varieties growing in the same area there are chances for more outcrossing and why I think the biologist concluded that currants where the problem. (even if the currants weren’t there these kinds of flowers are more likely to outcross and when saving seed isolation practices should be used to keep lines “pure”).

    Here are examples of flowers on normal tomatoes which have these kinds of issues with outcrossing – both exherted stigmas and rough anther cones. First a regular type’s flowers which have both splits in the anther cone and exherted stigmas (occurred after fertilizing followed by a heavy rain).

    and here’s is a “rough type” flower with splits in the anther cone (calxyes) on Cherokee Purple which makes it more likely to outcross because this exposes the stigma.

    Currant tomatoes are vary diverse and many have unique traits. Genetically they are far more diverse than “heirloom” varieties and have been important contributors to disease resistance, stress tolerance, high sugars and even the source from which the firm “hard as rocks” trait of commercial tomatoes was originally derived.

    They spread so readily not because of outcrossing but rather because they produce so many little fruits which birds like and spread so readily.

    The foliage to most have a unique odor. When currant tomatoes have been used in breeding one can often still smell traces of that unique odor in the foliage.

    The lines like “Florida Everglades” and “Matt’s Wild” have not shown to be true currants but are interspecific lines derived from a cross of the currant species to the smaller or pear fruited forms of common tomato Solanum pimpinellifollium x Solanum lycopersicum var cerasiforme. OR rather to say they make good examples of currants that have been outcrossed and developed into new lines from the 2 different species.

    Doing research on developing higher sugars in tomatoes I found that many high sugar lines can trace their parentage back to currant lines for the increased sugars (high brix). It has been a source in both US and Asian breeding efforts for this quality (especially cherry and cocktail types).

    I prefer the red currant lines over these white types (really yellow). They have much more character to them than just very sweet and/or tart. Some currant types can lack sweetness and be very tart. I really cannot recommend a specific variety.

    Unfortunately many of the best lines discovered or developed have been pulled from public access and have become breeding stock for companies which have used them to develop really sweet varieties of cherries.

    If you are lucky enough to find a source for some of the lines they are extremely sweet. Several brix higher than even the variety ‘Sun Gold’.

    Here is a link to many different currant lines that have been collected from the wild or developed through time and deposited with the USDA.

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