Jersey Tomatoes: Ramapo and Rutgers

comments (0) May 15th, 2010

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The lost Jersey tomato. Im growing two types of Jersey tomatoes this year including the Ramapo. A beloved Jersey hybrid that almost went extinct. You can now buy seeds from Rutgers University.
Rutgers seedlings. Im also planting Rutgers tomatoes. Developed in the 1930s, this tomato was ideal for New Jerseys canning industry including Campbells and Heinz.
Seed packets. Store-bought Rutgers seeds and the special mail-order Ramapo variety.
The lost Jersey tomato. Im growing two types of Jersey tomatoes this year including the Ramapo. A beloved Jersey hybrid that almost went extinct. You can now buy seeds from Rutgers University.Click To Enlarge

The lost Jersey tomato. I'm growing two types of Jersey tomatoes this year including the "Ramapo." A beloved Jersey hybrid that almost went extinct. You can now buy seeds from Rutgers University.

Photo: G. Eide

New Jersey is famous (notorious) for many things and one of those is tomatoes. An article in the New York Times, The Return of a Lost Jersey Tomato, caught my imagination a while back and inspired me to give Jersey tomatoes a try in my Connecticut garden.

While many gardeners are planting heirlooms and plants with exotic names like Schimmeig Stoo or Wapsipinicon Peach, I'm reaching for a bit of nostalgia—for the red gold that built up brands like Campbell's and Heinz.

The Rutgers tomato is a popular hybrid released in the 1930s. The round red fruit was perfect New Jersey's canning industry, though it's not used commercially any more.

I planted Rutgers seeds and my seedlings are ready to transplant into the garden as soon as it heats up outside—we'll see how it works out.

I also started seeds for the elusive Ramapo tomato. It's another taste-treat that Rutgers University developed generations ago. People fell in love with the taste, but the seeds became unavailable because it was found too soft for shipping. In recent years, however, Rutgers brought tomato back and people can now buy the seeds again through the university.

So I'm excited to see how these Jersey tomatoes perform in my garden this year. It makes sense for me to give them a try, after all, I've always been sort of drawn to the state.

Growing up in the midwest, my family often took summer trips to visit family in NJ. I always loved the hustle bustle of the area. I also did some high school volunteer work in the down-and-out town of Camden working with kids. I was surprised one day when we all headed to a big park all sponsored by Campbell's—and of course you can guess what we all ate for lunch--soup--out of giant Campbell's-branded vats. Growing these tomatoes will be connecting with a little bit of that history—since I later learned that the iconic brand is based there Camden.

The soup company also drummed up hype for planting the Jersey-style tomato last year when it gave away tomato seeds for home gardeners to try in their own plots.

Anyway, so I'll give these retro tomato types a shot this year, conjuring up the glory days of the Jersey tomato, and sparing a little bit of space in my plot for this slice of Americana. Maybe next year I'll give a Heinz seed a try.

Anyone out there tried Jersey tomatoes? Any big fans? Success or failures to report?


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