Remember the saying about how “they just don’t make ’em the way they used to?” So it goes with the once illustrious New Jersey tomato — the former standard-bearer for how tomatoes should taste and whose stature has sadly diminished in modern times thanks to mechanized farming and long-distance shipping, which have combined to yield a more durable, but less flavorful, fruit.
But the Jersey tomato could be poised for a major comeback. According to The New York Times, researchers at Rutgers University have reinvented an old-fashioned tomato variety from 1934 that “redefined what a tomato should be and was the most popular variety in the world” in its day.
This new spin on the old favorite is called the Rutgers 250, named in honor of the university’s 250th anniversary.
So far, the style is proving to be quite popular. All 5,000 packets of seeds that the university made available on its website in February have sold out, the Times reports.
One New Jersey farmer mentioned in the Times article is already growing the Rutgers 250 this season, and you can imagine many others are doing the same — all of which gives us here at Food Republic, the originators of Tomato Week, a whole new reason to be excited for the upcoming tomato season.
This summer, be sure to ask your usual farmers’ market vendor: Is this the usual New Jersey tomato, or is this the Rutgers 250?