The SunGold tomato variety guide

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Do you want to grow delicious tomatoes at home, but are worried that traditional large heirlooms may be too difficult to grow (or take too long to get to harvest)? Time to try growing SunGold tomatoes!

The Sun Gold Tomato is an orange-colored cherry tomato cultivar with a sugary-sweet tropical taste. These modern hybrids grow on long, indeterminate vines that fruit throughout the summer. SunGold plants are easy to grow and resistant to common tomato diseases. SunGold tomatoes are consistently named top-tasting tomatoes.

Read on to learn all about SunGold tomatoes!

Sungold tomatoes on the vine

The Sun Gold tomato

The SunGold Tomato was bred by the Tokita Seed Company in Japan (founded in 1917 by Mr. Taisuke Tokita). The SunGold is the most popular cultivar from the company’s “Sun Series” of cherry tomatoes. Other cherry tomatoes in Tokita’s SunSeries include SunLemon, SunPeach, SunChocolate, and SunGreen. Sungold received the RHS Award Of Garden Merit in 2007.

SunGold tomatoes are small orange cherry tomatoes, generally weighing between 15-18 grams each (about a half ounce). The ripe fruits are about 1″ wide in diameter and tend to grow together in clusters of 8-12 fruits on a stem. Sungold produces fruit very early in the growing season and continues to produce tomatoes until frost in autumn.

SunGold tomato plants are indeterminate, developing into large vining plants throughout the growing season. While the fruits are light, the vines can become quite large and require a trellis, vertical stake, and potentially an outer cage.

“An essential for every garden! Hearty plants produce beautiful tangerine-coloured cherry tomatoes with a rich, fruity and unique tropical taste when left on the vine and picked at optimum ripeness.”

Sungold Tomatoes, West Coast Seeds

What do Sun Gold tomatoes taste like?

The flavor of Sun Gold tomatoes is excellent, changing dramatically as the fruit ripens. The tomatoes start out with a snappy tartness and ripen to a sweetness that is almost like candy. Like many yellow-orange tomatoes, Sungold tastes almost fruity. Sun-ripened fruits can have almost a rich, tropical, citrus-like flavor, unique to this tomato variety. These gourmet tomatoes are often at the top of best-tasting tomato lists, right up there with Brandywine, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Black Cherry, and other heirloom classics.

“Sun Gold is unique in the range of flavors that it exhibits. Picked pale orange, there is a fullness and complexity with a nice snappy bite. At medium orange, sweetness and tartness play out in a delicious dance of intensity. At maximum ripeness, they are like candy – nearly overwhelmingly sweet. In my experience, nothing in the tomato world tastes like Sun Gold.”

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time, by Craig LeHoullier

While SunGold is unique in flavor, there are several other yellow-orange tomatoes with a sweet, fruity taste. Cherry tomatoes like Gold Nugget tomato and Honeybee tomato are great substitutes for SunGold. Larger orange tomatoes like Yellow Brandywine and Kellogg’s Breakfast also deliver a similar color and intense taste experience.

Sun gold tomato seedling

How to grow Sun Gold tomatoes?

Growing SunGold tomatoes is very similar to growing other vining indeterminate tomato plants. The plants are also somewhat more resistant to common tomato diseases than some popular heirlooms.

Sun Gold tomatoes can be grown at home from seed or can be purchased as potted seedling plants from a plant nursery. If growing from seed, purchase your SunGold tomato seeds in the winter and plant them indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost in your area (usually this means sowing seeds indoors sometime in February-March).

An easier (but potentially more expensive) option is to buy Sun Gold tomato plants. SunGold is one of the more common types of cherry tomatoes to grow, and some nurseries stock baby plants in the spring (typically March-June).

Sun gold tomato plant seedling

Planting Sun Gold tomatoes

Whether you’re growing from seed or from purchased seedlings, don’t put them outdoors until the threat of frost has passed. Tomato plants, including Sun Gold, can be damaged at temperatures below 43°F (6°C).

Put the sprawling SunGold plants in a location where their leaves get direct sunlight for at least 6-8 hours per day. This will help stop the leaves from turning yellow. Also, ensure they are close to a water spout so they will be watered frequently (a drip irrigation system is excellent for watering tomato plants).

Once outdoors, plant your SunGold tomato plants in nutrient-rich soil that drains water easily. These are large plants that should be spaced about 2 feet apart. They grow particularly well in raised garden beds and in large containers like wine barrel gardens. Tie the main stem to a vertical stake and/or surround the plant with a heavy-duty tomato cage/tower.

While they are a modern hybrid, SunGold tomato plants are indeterminate, meaning their vines keep growing longer and longer throughout the season. These larger vines require a significant trellis to support them. Skip the small standard hardware store tomato cages and opt for a heavy-duty tomato cage, a sturdy vertical plant stake, a large garden obelisk, or even a metal garden arch. While the tomatoes themselves are small and light, the vines branch easily and can grow to be quite substantial throughout the summer.

“I often use multiple stakes for a single variety if I choose to prune it minimally or not at all. Sun Gold is such a rampantly growing, heavily yielding type, and is so popular in our family, that it receives the multiple-stake treatment every year.”

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time, by Craig LeHoullier
Tomatoes growing on sun gold tomato plant

How long do Sun Gold tomatoes to ripen?

SunGold tomatoes are one of the first tomato varieties to grow in your garden, with fruit starting to ripen 57-65 days after transplanting outdoors. That means that only 2 months of outdoor growth before harvest begins. Temperate areas with a last frost date at the end of April will be well into their SunGold harvest by early July!

Bowl of ripe sun gold tomatoes in the garden

Harvesting Sun Gold tomatoes

Harvest SunGold tomatoes as they ripen throughout summer and early autumn. Sungold fruits picked as they just start to turn yellow will be tart and snappy. Ripe tomatoes are sugary-sweet, slightly squishy, and tend to fall off the vine into your hand as you brush by to pick them.

Sudden overwatering or other environmental changes can cause ripening SunGold tomatoes to crack on the vine. Try to keep the soil consistently moist, but not wet or muddy. Letting the soil dry out completely and then drenching it with water may lead to a sudden swell of water inside the fruits. Another way to avoid cracking is to pick tomatoes before they are fully ripe. Leave the picked under-ripe tomatoes on the kitchen counter to ripen at room temperature. Avoid putting fresh tomatoes in the fridge, as the cold temperatures can lead to a mealy texture.

Sun gold cherry tomato plants
Sun gold cherry tomato seedling plants

How tall do Sun Gold tomato Plants Get?

SunGold tomato plants can get quite tall if staked vertically, easily reaching 6′-10′ tall. Tie the plants to vertical stakes with sisal twine or tomato wire, and potentially surround the plant with a tomato tower to catch branches as they grow out horizontally.

The tallest tomato plant on record, at 65 ft (19.8 metres) tall, was a Sun Gold variety tomato plant. This giant plant was grown in the UK by the hydroponics company Nutriculture UK:

“The variety grown for the record was ‘Sun gold’”

Rachel Mcmaster, Internal Sales Supervisor, Nutriculture Ltd. UK

Are Sun Gold tomatoes heirloom tomatoes?

SunGold tomatoes are not heirloom tomatoes. SunGold tomatoes are a modern introduction from the “SunSeries” breeding program at the Tokita Seed Company in Japan.

SunGold tomatoes are also hybrid tomatoes, not open-pollinated tomatoes. Hybrid tomato seeds are produced in controlled seed production facilities by seed companies. Seeds saved from your home SunGold tomato plants will not “breed true” and produce new Sungold plants. Gardeners must purchase new hybrid seeds, including Sungold, each time they wish to plant them.

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a gardening expert and founder of Home for the Harvest. She's also a professional engineer, certified permaculture garden designer, and master gardener in training. Mary Jane has been featured by publications such as Real Simple, Mother Earth News, Homes & Gardens, Heirloom Gardener, and Family Handyman.

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