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May 27, 2007 09:46 AM

Jersey Tomatoes

Chowhounds from the NY/NJ area love these. Are they really any different from good summer tomatoes from home gardens or farmers' markets in the rest of the country? Is this another NY/NJ thing like bagels?

All I can find out is that they are picked vine-ripe and moved to market very quickly. New Jersey, the Garden State. Lots of great agriculture near big cities. Essential for great tomatoes.

Rutgers deleloped the Rutgers heirloom, a wonderful tomato, and Rutger Improved, another great one. Is this what most growers plant? A good heirloom developed by Rutgers University?
Is this an area where the regular supermarket tomato is an heirloom?

Who knows about the great agricultural State of New Jersey?

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  1. As far as I've ever heard and from my own experience, NJ just has better "tomato country" than NY or the other tristate-ish region areas. Among other things, it is significantly (if not substantially) warmer than upstate NY, and since tomatoes barely grow at all (literally) until the soil warms up above 50F, they have a significant advantage in that regard. When you come down to it, real "farming" is more about geography than anything else which is why, among other things, wine from the tiny but "perfect" vineyards sells for such unseemly amounts of money.... (PS: "running" a farm as a success is obviously more than geography, but that's only got somewhat to do with the quality of the crop itself.)

    1. It may very well be true that NJ has excellent tomatoes but I firmly believe that if you have access to locally grown tomatoes - grown outdoors in real soil and picked when ripe - that will always be the better choice. Tomatoes, in particular, do not like to travel. They are most delicious when freshly picked and eaten before they've had a chance to figure out they're no longer on the plant. Grow your own or buy local. Let New Jersey deal with their own tomatoes.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Nyleve

        I live here in california where everything grows, california is the 2nd producer behind
        florida as for producing tomato`s. but I think your right when you can [pick them fresh
        from your garden no matter where you live. the only thing that I have found out about
        something that is grown better geographicly is the vadalia onion because of the
        chemicals that are in the ground at that area,

      2. As one who lives in NYC and anxiously awaited the arrival of some wonderful NJ tomatoes last summer, I was sadly disappointed - while better than hothouse tomatoes, they were not extraordinary - let's hope this summer is better.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MMRuth

          Yeah, the lousy (for farming) weather last year was really annoying. Unfortunately, we've been getting a lot of rain so far this year too which doesn't bode all that well.... that's what happened last year - everything was generally not quite ripe enough and water-heavy...

        2. jersey tomatoes AND CORN are the best in this country

          our mobsters aren't too shoddy, either...

          thank you very much!

          bill, a lifelong garden stater

          3 Replies
          1. re: kleinfortlee

            As a fairly new transplant to Jersey, I'll buy the idea that Jersey corn is outstanding; the tomatoes,however.....not so much. The others are correct; the best tomatoes come out of your own garden and go directly to your plate/mouth.

              1. re: cowgirlinthesand

                Are they as attractive as Jersey cantaloupes??

            1. As a fourth generation New Jerseyan and an organic gardener I have to defend our state's agricultural heritage! Everything that has been stated is true, your best produce is always what's locally grown and the shorter the time from harvest to consumption is always better,no matter where you live. That being said, NJ is an excellent place to grow most vegetables. We have a moderate climate and generally abundant rainfall. For tomatoes in particular, we seem to have the right combination of hot days and nights that are just cool enough to favor production - most people don't realize that tomatoes struggle to produce fruit where it's too hot. So, that's my spiel, By the way, the Rutger's Tomato is not technically an heirloom.

              4 Replies
              1. re: bropaul

                I agree with everything except your spelling of the tomato that was developed at the agricultural college of our state university. As with the name of the college, there is no apostrophe in the name of the Rutgers tomato.

                1. re: bropaul

                  Heirloom? Not an heirloom? This is one of those varieties that points out the difficulty in the argument over what is and isn't an heirloom. Lots of reputable sites consider Rutgers an heirloom since it open pollinates, is stable and breeds true. Others don't. Same with some others like Mortgage Lifter.
                  I don't have particular luck with Rutgers because my nights are too warm and rainfall is often spotty. Perfect tomato for the Garden State though.
                  That's the funny thing about the heirlooms - they seem to be really regional. I grew up with varieties in South Louisiana that I haven't been able to grow successfully anywhere else.

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    Heirloom vegetables are generally thought of as old varieties, and are I believe always open-pollenated (versus hybrid, where the second generation will not come true if seed of parent is planted). Such as Mortgage Lifter and Brandywine (which seems to have started the whole heirloom tomato craze, and rightly so in my book -- it's outstanding). A tomato developed in the last 20 years by an Ag college is by definition not an heirloom.
                    So: heirlooms are open pollenated, but not all open pollenated are heirlooms, if they're not generations old.
                    I grow heirloom tomatoes successfully in upstate NY, except I can't resist a super sweet 100 or sun gold cherry tomato plant.

                    1. re: NYchowcook

                      I'm generally in agreement with you, nychowcook, but you're even fudging your words. There is a pretty standard rule for heirlooms: open pollinate v. hybrids but the problems start over which varieties get included on the lists and that's just not worth fighting over. Some hardliners don't consider Mortgage Lifter an heirloom even though it's been around for generations.
                      There just is no one standard list. Too many varieties of tomato and too much disagreement over individual varieties.
                      Like you, I grow what is successful in my own garden and tastes good. My Super Sweet 100s have never been inside the house - they're for snacking while I work.