In the day when the mass production of food trumped everything else, plant breeders developed the “perfect” supermarket tomato. Thick-skinned and with a shelf life for the ages, it was a boon for growers, shippers and retailers… But even nonfoodie consumers realized that they were getting the short end of the stick. Those reddish orbs looked like the real thing but tasted like damp cardboard, and the supermarket tomato became a standing joke. It also spurred the rediscovery and celebration of the heirloom tomato… This is the magic driving another tomato breeding program in New Jersey, a state where the tomato is a cultural icon. At Rutgers University’s agricultural research farm in Pittstown, hybridizer Tom Orton has been trying to capture the lost flavor of a famous old variety named, simply, “Rutgers.”… You can still find the “Rutgers” in seed catalogs, except it is not the original; genetic drift over the generations has brought a variety that is undoubtedly different from the first hybrid, now lost to time.
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