Breeder of the Rutgers tomato Lyman Schermerhorn (left) in a field of tomatoes (circa 1930s, others in photo unknown). Courtesy of Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.
Bringing Back the Classic Tomato, Salt Water Taffy & More!
By Wendy Greenberg
Jersey tomatoes. The phrase conjures roadside stand baskets piled high with bright red tomatoes begging to be sliced, each bursting with flavor.
Tomatoes are among the foods that evoke New Jersey’s culinary richness, along with such disparate delicacies as cranberries, salt water taffy, pork roll, Welch’s Grape Juice, Campbell’s soups, Boylan’s Birch Beer, and other eminent edibles.
Behold the “classic” Jersey tomato: Defined by its “deep, red color inside and out,” it may have a large stem scar, “with cracks or slits, or yellow ‘shoulders,’” describes Cindy Rovins, agricultural communications editor at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES). Considered “imperfect by today’s market standards, the flesh was smooth, firm, and juicy — not mealy or crunchy like modern supermarket tomatoes. The taste was full-bodied tomato flavor with the perfect balance of sweet and tangy.”
But over the years the tomato had drifted, flavor-wise. The stakes, so to speak, were high. After all, the Jersey tomato has a reputation to uphold. Enter the NJAES Rediscovering the Jersey Tomato program, an initiative that, in the last decade, has restored the taste to Jersey tomatoes. more