What’s in Season from the Garden State: The Historic Rutgers Tomato Gets Re-invented in University’s 250th Anniversary Year

Breeder of the 'Rutgers' tomato, Lyman Schermerhorn (left) in a field of tomatoes (circa 1930s)

Breeder of the ‘Rutgers’ tomato, Lyman Schermerhorn (left) in a field of tomatoes (circa 1930s)

Of the hundreds of varieties of tomatoes grown by home gardeners or commercial growers, there are a few standards that have become household names. One of those is the ‘Rutgers’ tomato – a leading home garden and processing variety of the 20th century. While the Rutgers tomato is no longer commercially grown for canned tomato production, it is still a favorite among home gardeners and widely available from seed catalogs and garden centers.

The development of the Rutgers tomato is a lesson in the history of the early 20th century industries of canning and agriculture and a chapter in the story of the famed Jersey tomato. Introduced in 1934 by Rutgers vegetable breeder Lyman Schermerhorn, the variety was named for the university where it was developed. The name, however, belies the tomato’s origins, for the original cross was made at the Campbell Soup Company in 1928, with leading processing tomatoes as the parent varieties. In cooperation with Campbell’s, Schermerhorn selected the best plants from the cross and for the next six years conducted field tests on New Jersey farms and made further selections until in 1934 the most superior selection was released as the ‘Rutgers’ tomato.

At the time of the tomato release, the tomato canning industry was predominant in New Jersey, which went hand in hand with local tomato production. In the book Souper Tomatoes, author Andrew F. Smith described the industry as it first gained a foothold in New Jersey in the late 1800s, “Most farms in southern New Jersey from Trenton to Cape May cultivated tomatoes…Wagons and carriages of every description filled the roads on their way to the canneries. The roads were virtually painted red with squashed tomatoes that fell from the wagons. Most towns had one or more canneries.” [Read more…]

Where to Find Rutgers 250 Plant Varieties

Plant Sale at Ag Field Day/ Rutgers Day

Plant Sale at Ag Field Day/ Rutgers Day

Recently, there has been a lot of news about Rutgers plant varieties, especially the ‘Rutgers 250’TM tomato and ‘Rutgers Scarlet’TM strawberry. What you might not know is where to find them.

Whether you are an experienced home gardener or are just starting out, it’s the time of year to start preparing garden beds and getting containers ready for planting. Specifically, it is recommended to start planting outdoors in New Jersey on or after May 15. Word to the wise: based on this year’s strange weather pattern, take extra precautions to protect your young plants from high winds and heavy rain.

Upcoming plant sales will have lots of great varieties to choose from, all suitable for New Jersey’s growing zones. You will find a Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) information booth at these events with material about this year’s highlighted varieties. Rutgers Master Gardeners will also be in attendance to help you get started. [Read more…]

Rutgers NJAES Board of Managers Hosts Rutgers Research Tour

Jim Simon (far left) gave the Rutgers NJAES Board of Managers and guests a tour of his greenhouse research.

Prof. Jim Simon (far left) gave the Rutgers NJAES Board of Managers and guests a tour of his campus greenhouse.

The Board of Managers (BOM), an advisory group to the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES), is made up of representatives from New Jersey’s county boards of agriculture. The BOM also serves as advocate for the experiment station and provides input to NJAES’ directors on matters concerning the state’s agricultural enterprise. In addition to quarterly board meetings where members listen to faculty talk about their programs, the BOM hosts an annual tour of NJAES research facilities to get an in-depth perspective of the agricultural research conducted by Rutgers faculty. The BOM representatives invite fellow county board of ag members as well as county legislators and state ag officials to attend the tour. The 2016 tour took place on March 24 and encompassed research conducted on the George H. Cook Campus in New Brunswick and at the Snyder Research Farm in Pittstown, NJ. The county representatives were joined by Al Murray, assistant secretary of agriculture, New Jersey Department of Agriculture, and Peter Furey, executive director, New Jersey Farm Bureau. [Read more…]

Rutgers 250 – NJAES Breed of the Month: Tomatoes

RUTGERS250_CMYK 3 inThis year, Rutgers University is commemorating its 250-year anniversary. To celebrate, the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station is selecting a plant bred at Rutgers as a Rutgers 250 Variety of the Month for each month of the year. This month’s variety (April 2016) is the Rutgers 250TM tomato! Rutgers’ tomato breeding program has been selecting for superior traits and improved genetics for generations.

Starting in the 1920s, tomato breeders have been using traditional, non-GMO breeding techniques to develop the best tomatoes for New Jersey’s ever-changing climate. Mainly focusing on red, fresh market and processing tomatoes, Rutgers tomato breeding efforts have also expanded to include smaller grape and pear-type tomatoes in the last decade. However, the main focus is to produce classic, high quality tomatoes that are suitable for the Northeast. [Read more…]

New Jersey 4-H Members to Attend National 4-H Conference

4-H Logo.

4-H Logo.

Six 4-H members from New Jersey have been selected to represent the state at the 86th National 4-H Conference to be held April 9-14 in Washington, D.C.  The New Jersey delegates are Teresa Coppola, Hunterdon County; Kacey England, Ocean County; Nikayla Hetzell, Cumberland County; Abigail Sharp, Salem County; Madeline Teitsma, Sussex County and David Wolverton, Middlesex County.

Headquartered at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland, this conference provides a forum for nearly 400 4-H members, leaders and staff from 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, District of Columbia and Canada. These teens offer an import voice in the development of programs and the future of 4-H. The theme of the conference is “Locally Grown, Global Leaders.” [Read more…]