Monday, February 6, 2012

Quest for the Perfect Tomato

When January rolls around it's time for the annual search for the tomato of my childhood memories; a big, soft, deep red beauty just bursting with that tangy tomato flavor.  For years I've remembered it as the Rutgers tomato (hybridized in 1934 by Rutgers agricultural college, now University) and every year I've planted seeds only to be disappointed at harvest.  Don't get me wrong, the Rutgers hybrid is a nice tomato, but it isn't quite THE tomato I remember.  So every winter, I pore over the catalog descriptions, study the photos and order a few likely prospects in the heirloom category in hopes of finding a suitable substitute for THE one.  I've found some great tomatoes along the way - Brandywine, Japanese Truffle, Black Krim and Persimmon - but none of them were IT.

I've also tried the local and wildly popular Hanover tomato, but I just don't get it.  Perhaps it is because I'm a Jersey (tomato) girl at heart; the Hanover, while meaty and succulent, doesn't even come close to the best in flavor for me.  The skin is a tad bit tougher than I like too.  I guess that's not a bad thing since we're growing in Powhatan soils, not Hanover soils, which according to enthusiasts is the raison d'etre (le terroir mon cherie! a.k.a. location, location, location) for their tomatoes.  Therefore, I can't really grow true Hanovers anyway.

This year I decided to do a little internet surfing and stumbled on the Jersey Tomato Project .  YES!!!  Ramapo, it has to be Ramapo!  This tomato looks exactly like I remember and the softness of the fruit is even listed as a flaw --- Ha!  Not a flaw in my book!  The clincher?  It was hybridized in 1968 by...drum roll please...Rutgers!  Much to my chagrin, it may not be possible to get seeds this year, but you'd better believe I'm on the waiting list!

Here's to the Jersey Tomato!

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