Last Updated: August 28, 2023
This year, I grew two popular cherry tomato varieties: Sungold and sunsugar. They sound similar in name, and indeed they appear to be almost identical in pictures.
Both are touted for having very sweet, flavorful tomatoes on easy-to-grow plants. They are both yellowish-orange when ripe, and have early fruit sets. But which is better?
In this article, I’ll share our thoughts on the sungold vs. sunsugar tomato debate. Through growing both side-by-side, tasting them throughout the season, and sharing with friends and family, I think we have a winner.
Plant Traits & Growing
|Flavor||Purely sweet when fully ripe||Very sweet with slight acidity|
|Avg. fruit size||0.5-0.75″||0.75-1″|
|Color||Dark orange||Pale orange|
|Days to maturity||57||62|
|Disease resistance||ToMV, Fusarium||ToMV, Fusarium|
As a quick background, the sungold hybrid, bred by Tokita, has been around since 1994. Sunsugar is the new kid on the block, originally bred by Seminis. Both are hybrid cherry tomato types with a similar appearance.
For my at home testing, I grew one of each variety. Both of our plants were grown in medium-sized containers (around 5 gallons or so) with the same type of soil, watering, fertilizer, and lighting conditions. Now, let’s go through the main differences we observed.
Let’s cover some basics about the tomato fruits from each plant. Without a doubt, sunsugar tomatoes are larger than sungolds. The largest fruits on our sungold plant were about the size of the smallest on the sunsugar plant.
In other words, sungolds are fairly small, even for a cherry tomato. Don’t get me wrong, this can be a good thing if you just want to pop one or two as a snack.
While size isn’t everything, I found myself happier with the slightly bigger sunsugars. They were more satisfying when eaten whole, and could be sliced into coins for salads.
Splitting & fruit drop
One of the biggest drawbacks of any tomato is a tendency to split. Some tomatoes will crack when rainfall is heavy (which it was this year!), while others are more resistant to splitting.
In our situation, sungold tomatoes were much more susceptible to cracking. In fact, our sunsugar tomato rarely produced any cracked fruit (2 or 3 overall), while the sungold plant had dozens.
This is an important trait, as it led to a much bigger useable harvest from the sunsugar plant. Yes, if I had been more diligent about harvesting at the perfect time, we could have saved more sungolds. But, in the real world, it’s better if the fruits don’t crack in the first place.
In addition to cracking, the sungolds were more prone to falling off of the plant. This would occur a few days after fully ripening, inviting chipmunks and ants to feast on the fallen fruits. Again, not a great trait!
The sunsugar tomatoes held onto the vine much longer, even after becoming over-ripe. This is a huge advantage, as it saves more tomatoes and keeps the garden tidy.
Aside from the dropped fruits and cracking tomatoes, how did each plant perform in terms of yield? Surprisingly, overall harvests were comparable.
Both plants produced heavy yields throughout the summer and into the early fall. They kept on producing new fruits as older ones were harvested, right up until the first frost.
Now, when you factor in the unusable tomatoes (cracked and diseased, fallen, etc.), then sunsugar becomes a clear winner for yield. Almost every fruit that sunsugar produced was eaten, while many of the sungolds went to waste.
Lastly, we should consider disease. Both plants stood up against disease very well, despite living through an incredibly wet summer (we had over 14″ of rain in July!).
Both plants have some resistance to Fusarium wilt and mosaic viruses. We did see some early blight on the sungold foliage, but it wasn’t serious enough to hold back the plant’s production. In general, both varieties showed good overall disease resistance.
Now, onto perhaps the most important trait: Flavor. Which tastes better, sungold or sunsugar tomatoes?
While flavor is, of course, subjective, there seemed to be a general agreement among my family, friends, and myself: Sunsugar tastes better.
Now, to be fair, sungold tomatoes are delicious. But sunsugar has them beat in my opinion. Let’s talk about why.
Like many tomatoes, sungolds go through a distinct flavor transformation as they ripen. If you pick them when they are just beginning to change color, they have a great balance of sweetness and tartness.
When they are fully ripe (deep golden color), they are 100% sweet with virtually no acidity. Most tomato lovers found the pure sweetness to be almost bland without any zing to round it out.
With all that said, the taste of sungold is still superior to almost any store bought cherry tomato. And, if you harvest at the perfect time (a few days before full ripeness), the flavor is divine.
There are few cherry tomatoes that can hang with the sunsugar’s flavor. Sweet, acidic, rich and juicy. All this, no matter when you harvest! We ate some of the sunsugars just after beginning to turn, and others that were overripe, and they all tasted amazing.
Yes, the flavor does change a bit as the tomatoes ripen – they do get sweeter. However, sunsugar tomatoes never lose that backend tartness that is so important. There are few tomatoes that I’ve tried that can pull this off.
We had friends and family try these two types blindly and asked which they liked better. The (almost) universal response was that sunsugar was tastier. To be fair, one family member preferred the sungold!
But overall, most liked sunsugar more, and I agree. If I could only grow one of these tomatoes again, I would choose the sunsugar every time.
Given all the things we learned growing sungold and sunsugar tomatoes side-by-side, I have my personal preference. Sunsugar proved to be a better variety in multiple ways (it may have even dethroned my favorite cherry tomato!).
Sunsugar had larger fruits, less cracking, and better overall flavor (in my opinion). So, if you’re on the fence, I’d recommend the sunsugar. Of course, if you have the space, why not try both and decide for yourself!