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Spring is Finally Here

It’s been a long winter hasn’t it.  Our thoughts turn to the garden and that brings to mind this from Joe Menkevich, whose interests are vast.

In Search of the “Real Jersey Tomato”!

by Joseph J. Menkevich

In March of 2008, I contacted Rutgers University with my questions as to the source of the First Jersey Tomato.

Here is a large excerpt from that e-mail:

Thu, 13 Mar 2008 01:07:59 -0700 (PDT)

Dear Tomato Enthusiasts @ Rutgers,

It’s that time of year again to start your tomato plants.

But what kind of tomato? That is the question!

I love reading history, all history. But I really love tomato history.

And the debate rages on:

What is a “Real Jersey Tomato” or what makes a “Jersey Tomato” a “Jersey”?

Pardon the pun but it all really stems upon: Who put the Tomato in New Jersey in the first place?

In my estimation, if you can answer that question, then you have established the roots of the FIRST “Jersey Tomato.”

Over time, once the tomato was established in New Jersey, “this Original Jersey” was then crossed with other varieties to develop a new “Jersey Tomato.”

That new tomato would then reign for a period of years as the “Jersey Tomato” until a new replacement hybrid came along.

After my searching for a new tomato to grow this year, I read about the J.T.D. Tomato.

In my estimation the “J.T.D.” was the “First Jersey Tomato.”

But let’s start with the “Rutgers”

“Rutgers 75 days, determinate – An improved, disease resistant strain. Fruit is six ounce, bright red; globular, slightly flattened with smooth, thick walls that are crack resistant. It was originally introduced in 1934. It is a cross between the ‘J. T. D.’ and ‘Marglobe’. Good for slicing and cooking.

“J.T.D. 85 days, indeterminate – In 1887, J. T. (John Thompson) Dorrance developed a unique line of condensed soups for the Campbell company.

Dorrance crafted condensed soup out of hardy stock ingredients, slashed the price of soup from thirty cents to a dime per can, and revolutionized the industry. By 1922, soup was such an integral part of the company’s presence in America, that Campbell formally added “Soup” onto its name. The company used the red and white school colors of Cornell University to produce a distinctive, and now famous, label.

The tomato, named in honor of the man, was bred by the Campbell Soup Company for specific characteristics for growing in New Jersey and for its own factory use.

Aside from its significance as a good red processing tomato, it has the historical significance of being used as a parent in the development of other important tomato varieties.

The plants are vigorous and productive. Fruits are medium to large sized (six to sixteen ounces), red, globe to oblate shaped and tasty.

“Marglobe 75 days, determinate – Developed in 1917 by Fred J. Pritchard of the USDA by crossing ‘Marvel’ and ‘Globe’. Released in 1925. One of the first disease resistant strains with a good resistance to Verticillium and Fusarium wilt. ‘Marglobe’ is the parent of many tomato varieties.

Red, smooth and solid six ounce fruit that is crack resistant. Its earliness favors its adoption in canning regions of Northern States where frosts and short seasons are common.”

I gave up on trying to grow a Jersey Tomato in Pennsylvania, so I still purchase them on the small stands on the back roads (which are becoming more & more scarce).

In Philadelphia, I stick with what has worked for me over the years. I grow heirloom tomatoes. I start the seeds indoors on the spring equinox (March 21) for outdoor planting about May 10.

Over the years, my personal favorite tomato is the Cherokee Purple. Here are some varieties that I gave away to friends and family last year:

– Azoychka – Small yellow beefsteak –  Heirloom variety from Russia. 70 days

– Black Prince – Deep garnet round fruits – Originally from Siberia. Indeterminate. 70 days.

– Aunt Gertie’s Gold 1 lb. Heirloom variety from Virginia. Indeterminate. 75-80 days.

– Blue Fruit –  distinctive purplish-gray hue, about 8 ozs. Indeterminate. 78 days.

– Golden Queen, USDA Strain – obtained from the USDA seed bank, and is the original Golden Queen described by the seedsman Livingston in 1882. Tomatoes are 8 to 12 ozs., yellow with a pronounced pink blush on the blossom full tomato taste, sweet and most pleasant. Indeterminate. 75 days.

– Limmony –  bright lemon-yellow beefsteak Heirloom from Russia. Indeterminate. 80 days.

– Cherokee Purple – 10 to 12 oz. dusky rose/purple – deep brick red interiors, somewhat perishable. Heirloom from Tennessee. Indeterminate. 80 days

– Crimson Cushion – very old late-seasoned, wilt-resistant beefsteak, 14-16 ounce, ribbed, irregular, bright scarlet, juicy, solid, prolific. Balance of tart and sweet, nice slicing tomato, indeterminate 90 days

All the above tomato information came from: Victory Seeds, who gives tomato history & a pedigree along with their seeds.

Documentary Sources:

1. “Descriptions of Principle Types of American Varieties of Tomatoes”, USDA, October, 1933.

2. “Yearbook of Agriculture”, USDA, 1937

Here is another great seed company that has a huge section of exotic hot peppers and heirloom tomatoes: Tomato Growers Supply Company.


I am not promoting either of the seed companies – Burpee and many other carry excellent seed stock.

3 thoughts on “Spring is Finally Here

  1. Very interesting. I hope it will encourage people to grow food and herbs at home. Food prices will be sky high this year and freezing, drying and canning of homegrown surplus would be prudent. Free seeds are once again available for community programs to grow food form America the beautiful fund. One good source of organic seeds is the botanical interests. I would love to see a picture of everyone’s veggies this summer posted in the Frankford Gazette, that would be fun. I like to start seeds indoors too. I have some Brandywine and Krim seeds leftover if any one wants some. I grow Krim, brandywins, morgage lifter, oregon spring, and coure de blu tomatos as well as cherry and grape tomatos in a very small yard. If I can do it any one can. In a 15 x 105 area I produce plenty of food for the whole block. In Spring you can (now) plant lettuce, spinach, bok choi, cabbage, kale, chard, rutabega, turnip, peas, carrots, beets etc, all your spring crops then pick them all and plant your warm crops, (May 15) like tomato, pumpkins, squash, eggplant, peppers, corn etc right in the same space. Try a bluberry bush or a grape vine or anything you like to eat. You can save hundreds of dollars on your grocery bill, give it a try. At least grow a few bean sprouts and herbs in the kitchen!

  2. Joe M.Very good info,I also love reading about the history of Tomatosand also growing them,thank you for the info. Barry

  3. Here is a great place to read & learn about many varieties of tomatoes.

    This is the wikapedia of tomatoes:

    Tatiana’s TOMATObase – Heritage Tomatoes

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