Jersey tomatoes making a comeback?

Tomato ripening in Australian "winter"

For anyone who’s ever eaten one, this is very good news indeed. The tasteless, mushy things that pass for tomatoes now are a very pale imitation:

The Jersey tomato, red, ripe and juicy, was once revered as the best to be had, with a tangy, sweet-tart flavor that was the very taste of summer.

If that kind of tomato perfection has faded to a dim memory in recent decades, blame mechanized harvesting and long-distance shipping, which prize durability over flavor. Pulpy, thick-skinned, flat-tasting tomatoes became the unsatisfying norm.

“The old, soft tomatoes split too easily, so you couldn’t ship them,” John Hauser, a farmer in East Brunswick, N.J., said. “But newer tomatoes, while they look good and hold up well, made people start to understand that beauty is only skin-deep. A lot of flavor was lost.”

This season, Rutgers University introduced a reinvented version of a tomato variety from 1934 that reigned unchallenged for decades. After years of work by Rutgers plant specialists, this old-fashioned tomato with old-fashioned taste has returned as the Rutgers 250, named in honor of the university’s 250th anniversary.

“This was the tomato that made the Jersey tomato reputation,” Thomas J. Orton, a professor in the department of plant biology and pathology, said of the 1934 variety. “It was a groundbreaking tomato that redefined what a tomato should be and was the most popular variety in the world. At one point, it represented in excess of 60 percent of all tomatoes grown commercially.”

One thought on “Jersey tomatoes making a comeback?

  1. Alas, I doubt that many of these juicy gems will make their way to the west coast.

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