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The Santorini Tomato

Tomatoes are one of the delights of summertime, and cherry tomatoes are particularly easy to grow. One rewarding cherry tomato variety to try if you want a unique flavor is the Santorini tomato (Tomataki Santorini).

Closeup of Santorini tomatoes.

In Greece, the Greek Islands, and other areas around the Mediterranean Sea, these delicious little small tomatoes are famous for their incredible flavor and aroma. Keep reading to learn more about Santorini tomatoes.

History of the Santorini Tomato

Regular tomatoes don’t always have a fascinating history, but the Santorini tomato certainly does. It all started in 1917 when the Russian revolution caused the shuttering of most of the country’s Orthodox churches.

At that time, the Greek volcanic island of Santorini suddenly had a new problem. Their biggest customer for the wine made by Greek Santorini monks was Russian churches. Realizing that they needed a new cash crop, the merchants turned to something unexpected: the Santorini tomato, which proved to be a lucrative venture.

Pile of harvested Santorini tomatoes.

Most experts believe that a Capuchin monastery abbot first brought cherry tomatoes to the Greek island as early as 1818. By the early 1900s, more than 20,000 acres of tomatoes were regularly harvested in Santorini, Greece. Since 2013, the Santorini tomato has had an official designation of origin and has been protected.

Characteristics of the Santorini Tomato

Santorini tomatoes are deep red in color and have flesh that is firm and not particularly moist.

Ripening Season

Santorini tomatoes ripen about 80 days after planting. Seeds germinate between five and ten days.

Tomato Qualities

These cherry tomatoes are small and the plants produce round flat fruit. Santorinis consistently remain deep red in color.

Experts say that cherry tomatoes from Santorini are the world’s richest tomato in lycopene, which gives the tomatoes a distinctive flavor.

Tomato Size

Santorinis are cherry tomatoes. They look like an average-sized cherry tomato and measure between five and six centimeters (about 1/3 of an inch), but the flavor is distinctly different.

Planting Zones

Santorini tomato plants thrive in USDA Hardiness Zone 11. You can try planting them in other areas of the country, but keep in mind that these cherry tomato plants thrive in a dry climate and can’t tolerate cold weather. Their minimum cold hardiness is +4.4 °C (40 °F) to +7.2 °C (50 °F).

Closeup of tray of tomato seedlings.

Size and Spacing

Plants should be spaced about 20 inches apart (50 centimeters). Space your rows between 23 and 27 inches apart (60-70 centimeters).

Sow your seeds to a depth of five millimeters.

Pollination

Santorini tomatoes are self-pollinating.

Plant Care

Santorinis are indeterminate tomatoes, which means that these plants are climbers. You will need to use stakes or a tomato cage for best results.

Small green cherry tomatoes on the vine.

For full instructions on growing tomatoes, check out our guide: How To Grow Tomatoes: The Complete Guide For the Best Tomatoes.

Sunlight

For best results, ensure that your tomato plants get six to eight hours of full sunlight daily.

Soil

The natural soil used to grow Santorini tomatoes is volcanic soil that contains no nitrogen. However, the soil in Santorini contains hygroscopic sodium, which means that the plants can absorb and trap moisture from the air.

This tomato was developed in alkaline soil that is limey. Keep in mind that Santorini is an island that is volcanic.

Water

For tomato plants to thrive, they need to be planted in soil that is kept moist but never becomes fully saturated. After planting your tomato plants, water the plants every day for five days. Then, water tomatoes every two or three days, depending on how dry your climate is.

One thing that is helpful is that Santorini tomatoes do well in dryer conditions because of the way these plants were developed. In their natural habitat, they are actually grown with minimal water.

For all tomato plants, you’ll get the best results if you avoid overhead watering. Watering from the ground with soaker hoses helps reduce mold and disease.

Water the ground at the base of a tomato plant with a watering can.

Fertilizer

To learn more about fertilizer for tomatoes, check out our guide: The 6 Best Tomato Plant Foods, Plus Advice From Real Gardeners and Farmers.

Pruning/Pinching

For full details on how to prune tomato plants, check out our guide: How To Prune Tomato Plants For the Best Tomatoes.

Diseases

For information on diseases that affect tomato plants, refer to our guide: How To Identify and Treat the 7 Most Common Tomato Plant Diseases.

Pests

To learn about pests that can affect tomato plants, see our guide on this topic: The 15 Most Common Tomato Pests: How to Identify, Get Rid Of, and Prevent Them.

When to Harvest Santorini Tomato

Santorini tomatoes can be harvested about 80 days after planting. You can allow them to ripen on the vine.

If you’re expecting freezing temperatures or frost, you can pick your green Santorinis and allow them to ripen indoors under a newspaper or in a brown paper bag. Another option is to refrigerate unripened green tomatoes and use them to make green tomato relish, salsa, and more.

Common Uses for the Santorini Tomato

Because of their sweetness, these cherry tomatoes are ideal for bottling, salads, and preserving.

Various harvested Santorini tomatoes on a table.

What Does This Tomato Taste Like?

Santorini tomatoes have a slightly acidic and sweet flavor.

Cooking with the Santorini Tomato

This is a tomato perfect for tomato paste, and you can make some delicious sauces to serve over pasta and meat.

A jar of herbed tomato preserves or tomato sauce.

Eating Raw

Santorini tomatoes are delicious to eat raw in salads and sauces.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

When it comes to preserving, Santorinis are as tasty as any other variety of tomatoes.

For canning these tomatoes, use the same process you would use to can any type of tomato.

Like most tomatoes, Santorini tomatoes don’t hold up well to freezing. The flavor is excellent, but tomatoes don’t keep their shape and texture in the freezer. If you need to freeze your tomatoes, plan to use your frozen harvest in recipes and sauces.

Because of their sweetness, Santorini tomatoes are perfect for making sun-dried tomatoes.

Trays of dried Santorini tomatoes.

Recipe Ideas for the Santorini Tomato

Try some of these delicious recipes with your Santorini cherry tomatoes.

Closeup of keftedes -- tomato fritters.

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Ripe tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C, both of which are powerful antioxidants that help to strengthen your immune system. Additionally, tomatoes provide iron, magnesium, and fiber, which aids in digestion.

Note that Santorinis are a little bit higher in carbs than regular fresh tomatoes. The carbs are what give this delicious tomato the strongly acidic sweet taste.

Where to Buy Santorini Tomato Plants or Seeds

It can be difficult to find Santorini tomato seeds and plants. Your best bet is to look for these seeds in specialty markets such as Etsy. You can also contact seed exchanges and collectors of heirloom tomato varieties to try to find sources for seeds and plants.

For other types of garden-variety cherry tomatoes, including the beloved Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato, you can search online nurseries such as Natures Hills.

Where to Buy Santorini Tomatoes

If you want to enjoy Santorini tomatoes, you will likely need to grow them yourself unless you get super lucky and find some at a gourmet market or farmer’s market.

A bucket of picked Santorini tomatoes.

You can buy these delicious tomatoes preserved as canned foods in specialty online markets.

Wrapping up the Santorini Tomato

For a sweeter tomato that makes the perfect tomato paste, you can’t beat the delicious Santorini tomato. Whether you’re wanting to eat these tasty little tomatoes raw or use them to make a savory sauce, they’re absolutely perfect.

To learn more about tomatoes, read our tomato blog posts for tomato variety profiles, plus lots of guides to help you grow and care for your tomatoes.