What’s the Difference Between Cherry and Grape Tomatoes?

DutchScenery/iStock via Getty Images
DutchScenery/iStock via Getty Images

One perfect tomato can elevate the flavor of a dish and leave your dinner guests firmly believing in the power of your culinary prowess. While the large, fleshy beefsteak tomatoes are usually sliced for sandwiches and burgers, and the often-canned Roma tomatoes are well suited for sauces, it’s not as easy to spot the differences between some other types of tomatoes (which may or may not be fruit). Apart from their fruit-inspired names, what separates a cherry tomato from a grape one?

According to The Kitchn, perhaps the most obvious difference is that cherry tomatoes are round, like cherries, and grape tomatoes have a more oblong shape, like (some) grapes. If you’ve ever gotten a jet stream of tomato juice right to the eye, it was probably a cherry tomato: They have thinner skins and a higher water content than grape tomatoes, so they squirt easily when you take a bite.

And you’re more likely to take a bite out of a cherry tomato—they can be about twice as big as grape tomatoes, which you can more easily pop in your mouth whole. As the larger (and more watery) of the two types, cherry tomatoes are ideal for hollowing out and stuffing, while grape tomatoes are great to toss into a salad. Of course, cherry tomatoes will also taste delicious in a salad, but you might want to cut them into halves or quarters first.

grape tomatoes
Grape tomatoes.
Eliza317/iStock via Getty Images

Grape tomatoes have a thicker skin and a fleshier interior, making them more durable and longer-lasting than cherry tomatoes. Because of these qualities, they’re easier to pack, store, and transport—so you probably see them in supermarkets more often than cherry tomatoes, especially in prepackaged containers.

bunch of cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes.
Tetiana Rostopira/iStock via Getty Images

And, if you’re in the grocery store right now trying to decide between grape or cherry tomatoes, here’s an at-a-glance recap:

Rounder: Cherry
Sweeter: Cherry
Juicier: Cherry
Larger: Cherry
Thicker skin: Grape
Longer shelf life: Grape
Better for stuffing: Cherry
Better for salads: Grape (but cherry will work too, if you cut them)

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Why Does Santa Claus Give Coal to Bad Kids?

iStock/bonchan
iStock/bonchan

The tradition of giving misbehaving children lumps of fossil fuel predates the Santa we know, and is also associated with St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, and Italy’s La Befana. Though there doesn't seem to be one specific legend or history about any of these figures that gives a concrete reason for doling out coal specifically, the common thread between all of them seems to be convenience.

Santa and La Befana both get into people’s homes via the fireplace chimney and leave gifts in stockings hung from the mantel. Sinterklaas’s controversial assistant, Black Pete, also comes down the chimney and places gifts in shoes left out near the fireplace. St. Nick used to come in the window, and then switched to the chimney when they became common in Europe. Like Sinterklaas, his presents are traditionally slipped into shoes sitting by the fire.

So, let’s step into the speculation zone: All of these characters are tied to the fireplace. When filling the stockings or the shoes, the holiday gift givers sometimes run into a kid who doesn’t deserve a present. So to send a message and encourage better behavior next year, they leave something less desirable than the usual toys, money, or candy—and the fireplace would seem to make an easy and obvious source of non-presents. All the individual would need to do is reach down into the fireplace and grab a lump of coal. (While many people think of fireplaces burning wood logs, coal-fired ones were very common during the 19th and early 20th centuries, which is when the American Santa mythos was being established.)

That said, with the exception of Santa, none of these characters limits himself to coal when it comes to bad kids. They’ve also been said to leave bundles of twigs, bags of salt, garlic, and onions, which suggests that they’re less reluctant than Santa to haul their bad kid gifts around all night in addition to the good presents.

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Why Are Poinsettias Associated with Christmas?

iStock
iStock

Certain Christmas traditions never seem to go out of style. Along with wreaths, gingerbread cookies, and reruns of A Christmas Story sits the poinsettia, a red-tinged leafy arrangement that’s become synonymous with the holiday. Upwards of 100 million of them are sold in the six weeks before December 25.

Why do people associate the potted plant with seasonal cheer? Chalk it up to some brilliant marketing.

In 1900, a German immigrant named Albert Ecke was planning to move his family to Fiji. Along the way, they became enamored of the beautiful sights found in Los Angeles—specifically, the wild-growing poinsettia, which was named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the U.S.-Mexican ambassador who first brought it to the States in 1828. Ecke saw the appeal of the plant’s bright red leaves that blossomed in winter (it’s not actually a flower, despite the common assumption) and began marketing it from roadside stands to local growers as "the Christmas plant."

The response was so strong that poinsettias became the Ecke family business, with their crop making up more than 90 percent of all poinsettias sold throughout most of the 20th century: Ecke, his son Paul, and Paul’s son, Paul Jr., offered a unique single-stem arrangement that stood up to shipping, which their competitors couldn’t duplicate. When Paul III took over the business in the 1960s, he began sending arrangements to television networks for use during their holiday specials. In a priceless bit of advertising, stars like Ronald Reagan, Dinah Shore, and Bob Hope were sharing screen time with the plant, leading millions of Americans to associate it with the holiday.

While the Ecke single-stem secret was eventually cracked by other florists—it involved grafting two stems to make one—and their market share dwindled, their innovative marketing ensured that the poinsettia would forever be linked to Christmas.

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