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In part I of the Tomato Diaries, entitled "Five Heirlooms, Five Stories", we looked at the Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Anna Russian and Arkansas Traveler tomatoes.  If you missed the first one, here's the link:
http://www.dailykos.com/...

We seem to have a fair number of gardeners and tomato lovers here, so I will make the "Tomato Diaries" a series, at least until I run out of interesting material.  In this edition, I will dig into the twisted genealogy of one of the more famous tomatoes from years of yore:  The Rutgers Tomato.  Rich in PA called it his "go-to tomato."  Indeed, there was a time when most gardeners in America were in agreement.  I've eaten them.  My aunts and uncles all grew them.  I never have.  Yet.

I made the comment in Part I that I find them a bit hard to find as starts out here in the PNW, and Rich said he just starts his from seed.  That started me on a quest, and I was somewhat surprised by what I found.

The Rutgers tomatoes that my relatives, and yours, grew back in the 50's are most likely not the same tomato as the "Rutgers" on sale in nurseries or seed catalogs today.  I know...that's shocking, and hard to swallow.  But I'm afraid it true.  Those old Jersey beefsteaks exist mostly in our memories, though people are still on the hunt for them.  

The original Rutgers, which put the "mmm mmm good" in Campbell's tomato soup, and filled countless bottles of Heinz catsup, it's most likely gone.  Misplaced.  It must be around here somewhere, but damned if anyone can find it.  How embarrassing.

Here's the story of the real tomatoes that made New Jersey famous, long before Snooki was even a gleam in her father's eyes.

There are only 6 states that I have never visited or traveled through:  New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maryland and...you guessed it...New Jersey.  When I first learned that New Jersey's nickname was "The Garden State", I was sort of surprised.  I always thought of the state as being mostly urban areas.  And not very good ones, at that.  Growing up on the West Coast, I was weaned on countless jokes about New Jersey on the Tonight Show when it was still Johnny Carson's gig.  I always associated NJ more with its hazardous waste sites and chemical industry than with its beefsteak tomatoes.  The stereotypes of NJ was about as far on the other end of the spectrum from farms and tomato fields as you can get.  

But New Jersey was and still is a major agricultural state, and even though the heyday of its tomato industry has passed, it still ranks 5th in the nation in commercial tomato production (it ranks 9th for fresh market tomatoes).  The Campbell Soup Company was established around 1870 in Camden, NJ, and there was a time when that company alone used so many tomatoes at its plant that thousands of boxes would arrive each day during the season on barges, trucks and train cars from growers in the southern part of the state.  In the early decades of the 1900's almost every town in South Jersey had its own local processing plant.

In 1897 Campbell's Co. hired the nephew of its General Mgr, a man by the name of John T. Dorrance.  Dorrance was a chemist, and MIT grad, who developed an innovative way to produced condensed soup.  That, along with advances in commercial canning, led to explosive growth for the company.  According to Wikipedia, Dorrance was paid a weekly salary of $7.50 when he was first hired.  By 1914, he was chosen to become president of the company, and some years later he bought out ownership from the Campbell family.  Under his reign, the company engaged in an agressive outreach program to the tomato growers in Jersey it depended upon, as well as engaging in tomato research of its own.

It's hard to overstate the influence of Campbell's, as well as, later and to a lesser degree, companies like Heinz, Hunts and Progresso.  They purchased virtually the entirety of the state's tomato crop for processing.  Campbell's would host informational seminars for tomato growers, and used them to encourage the growers to begin growing newer varieties that were being developed with earlier maturation times, so as to extend the growing season.  Marglobe was a variety released by the USDA in 1917 that had improved disease resistance and produced more tomatoes per plant with fewer blemishes.  Campbell's developed their own tomato, named after its president, the "JTD" tomato.  Rutgers University began experimenting with the two varieties, and came up with their own improved variety which they released in 1934...the original "Rutgers" tomato.  It quickly garnered praise, gained acceptance by growers and was planted widely throughout the state.  In many ways the variety launched the reputation of the "Jersey beefsteak tomato" on a region-wide basis.

But a strange thing happened.  Rutgers never really embraced the tomato strain they had developed as the sort of intellectual property that it clearly was.  Instead, they released it and encouraged seed companies and commercial processors to continue experimenting with it.  In 1943 they released their own, newer version of the Rutgers tomato, this time a hybrid instead of an open pollinated variety.  By the 1950's, thousands of tomato growers in New Jersey as well as many Midwestern states were growing Rutgers tomatoes, but to the extent that they were procuring their seed from many various seed  companies, the seed itself had undergone enough variations that they weren't really growing the same Rutgers tomato.

There was a time when Rutgers Univ. was more well known for its namesake tomato than it was for anything else.  Which makes it all that more perplexing that they eventually lost track of the parent seed stock.  In 1968 Rutgers pulled another rabbit out of its hat with the introduction of another hybrid called Ramapo.  Though not an open pollinated variety, and therefore not able to be classified as an heirloom, no matter how old the variety may be, it was an excellent beefsteak tomato, and once again quickly gained widespread acceptance among commercial and home tomato growers.  It was relatively thin walled, resistant to a number of tomato afflictions, and had excellent taste.  And once again, Rutgers lost control of the seed stock.

By 1970 New Jersey still had a reputation as the East Coast tomato capitol,but things were clearly changing.  The major processors were shifting the locus of their operations to California (and Florida), which had superior growing conditions, and research into new varieties no longer focused upon flavor, but upon the ability to hold up under mechanical harvesting techniques and rough handling in the transportation chain, as well as shelf life at the retail level.  Consumers were already begining to notice that tomatoes just didn't taste like the tomatoes they grew up with.

By 1992 there were only about 19 commercial tomato growers left in New Jersey, and the number of major in-state processors had shrunk from 30 to just one.  The rest had moved out of state.  In a NYT article from that year:

On Feb. 24, the last major tomato processor in the state announced that it would not buy some 28,000 tons of New Jersey processing tomatoes, about 80 percent of the anticipated production.
http://www.nytimes.com/...

Campbell's Company closed down its historic plant in Camden for good in 1992, eliminating 940 jobs.  At its peak, the plant was one of the 3 largest employers in Camden.  Today, the only thing it makes there, as the NYT article puts it, is decisions.

About all that was left for the New Jersey tomato growers was the fresh market, and yet the taste of the average tomato had declined as a result of 3 decades to plant breeding that emphasized just about every tomato quality except its flavor.  In the 90's, when consumers rediscovered heirloom tomatoes, with their various colors, fruit shapes and remarkable flavor, many growers began switching immediately to growing old open pollinated varieties for the fresh market.  And for many of them, it was a rude awakening.

There's a perfectly good reason why heirloom tomato varieties gave way, over time, to hybridized tomatoes.  They were not resistant to diseases like blight, fusarium wilt, tobacco leaf mosaic and many others.  Early hybrids resulted in varieties that were not only resistant to these diseases, they were also more prolific fruit bearers.  And they still tasted good.  You had the best of two worlds.  Then, sometime around mid-century, the direction of plant breeding began to change.  Flavor was no longer of concern to those employed in the field ofvegetable breeding.  The end all of research into new varieties was shelf life, ability to hold up during transport to market, ability to undergo mechanized harvesting.

When growers first got caught up in the heirloom tomato craze of the 90's, they had largely forgotten why people switched to hybrids to begin with.  For many, their fields were dismal.  Sickly plants, with low yields.  The tomatoes harvested were remakably better tasting, but many of them were lost just in getting them to market due to jostling, compaction, bruising and splitting.  Once at the market, several more were lost due to the tendency of consumers to be heavy handed in their handling of fruit while they select "just the right ones" to take to the cash register.  So while those heirlooms command a hefty price, that in no way means the grower was necessarily making more money.  In some cases, even as you paid $4.50 to $6.00 a pound for those beautiful heirlooms, the grower was making less money.

Recognizing that there might be a happy medium in between tasteless modern varieties and finicky, poor performing heirlooms, Rutgers Univ. a few years ago launched a project called "Rediscovering the Jersey Tomato."  Among some of the things they found:

The original strain of the first Rutgers tomato is lost.  Long lost.  I have read that someone may have found a jar of the original parent seed while cleaning out the desk of a retired/deceased faculty member, but I'm not sure.  Rutgers never safeguarded the parent seed.

The Ramapo hybrid was lost commercially several years ago.  Harris Seed Company, which had acquired the seed from Rutgers, stopped offering it.  Unlike Rutgers, though, Harris still had a sample of the original seed archived.  Rutgers partnered with a seed producer in Israel to regrow the old hybrid, and now you can once again obtain the seed for this variety.

Though "Rutgers" is the variety that everyone associates with New Jersey, in fact there was always more like a portfolio of several beefsteak tomato varieties that were being grown throughout the state.  They were similar, but Rutgers had the name recognition, and the name stuck.

Another variety that Rutgers researchers have "rediscovered" is the Moreton tomato.  Like Ramapo, it had largely disappeared, but seed stock has been built up, and Rutgers is now offering the seed for sale.  While Ramapo is a mid to late season tomato, Moreton matures early in the season, and still has that "old Jersey taste."

Rutgers has realized that the furure of New Jersey tomato growers is in the fresh market, not the commercial canning market, and that consumers demand a better tasting tomato these days.  They continue to "reverse-engineer" the tomato, searching for cultivars of previous decades that were developed for both productivity, disease resistance and taste, and then seemingly lost over time.

So far they have had some success.  Let's hope they continue to make strides.

That's about it for Part II.  Except for one thing.  I started off mentioning that my impressions of New Jersey when I was young were based in large part on jokes I heard about the state on the Johnny Carson Show.  The only New Jersey joke I can remember is one that a woman from Moonachie, NJ, whom I used to date, taught me several years ago.  Here's the joke:

What's the first thing a New Jersey girl does in the morning?

Walk home.

Sorry...I just had to.

Originally posted to Keith930 on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 02:54 PM PDT.

Also republished by Environmental Foodies and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  An old NJ tomato legend has it that in 1820 (24+ / 0-)

    One Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson had brought the tomato plant to New Jersey from a trip to Europe in 1808, and had long encouraged people to grow them as food.  Most people resisted his suggestion, however, because at the time it was popularly believed that tomatoes were at the very least mildly toxic, since they are members of the Nightshade Family.  They were sometimes grown as ornamentals, due to their red fruits, but not for the table.

    Finally, in frustration, Colonel Johnson announced that he would prove to everyone that tomatoes were not only safe but delicious to eat, and he would do so by eating a basketful of them on the steps of the Court House in Salem, New Jersey for all to see.  According to lore, his stunt was publicized well before his planned "tomato-fest", and on the appointed day a crowd of perhaps a couple thousand curious onlookers had assembled to see what might happen to him.

    As promised, he consumed his basket of tomatoes, with no apparent ill-effects.  This helped persuade people that tomatoes were, indeed, worthy of growing for their fruit, and helped launch their subsequent popularity.

    Historians question the veracity of the tale, but it's a good story nonetheless.

    Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 03:06:33 PM PDT

    •  it describes a historical moment (7+ / 0-)

      that happened all over the world with tomatoes, as they were first introduced to the old world, but it's way too late to have happened in the 1820s, is my hunch.

      •  I have to ask you a lame question...OK, 2 (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tonyahky, Dumbo, JanL, PeterHug

        First...are you of Chinese descent?  Or is wu ming just a user name?

        Second...IF you are Asian...is it my imagination, or does the tomato just sort of not really show up much at the Asian table?  It seems to me that of all the Chinese, Thai, Korean, Japanese food that I've eaten over the years, the tomato is mostly a no-show on the menu.

        I am curious why.  

        Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

        by Keith930 on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 07:35:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  i am not of chinese descent (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Keith930, Dumbo, JanL, marleycat, Ahianne, PeterHug

          but i speak and read chinese. wu ming (ie. 無名) means "anonymous."

          the tomato shows up in some places but not everywhere in asia, and certainly not as much as the other new world crops such as potatoes, corn, peanuts, sweet potatoes, beans or hot peppers. i have no idea why, as all of it came over from the new world in the 16th century with the manila galleon trade, but some things appear to have stuck better than others.

          in chinese food, the most prominent tomato dishes i can think of are the cantonese variant of sweet and sour pork 糖醋里脊 (further north, the sour taste comes from vinegar), and eggs stir-fried with tomatoes 番茄炒蛋. indian food has a fair amount of tomatoes, IIRC.

      •  Early nineteenth century is when they caught on. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Keith930

        It surprises me it was that late, as well.  Canning technology was part of the reason.  Canned tomatoes were shipped to England, where they gradually gained acceptance because people were a bit afraid of them at first.  It took a little bit longer for them to became a significant American cash crop.

        Many tomato varieties can grow quite well in England, but they prefer warmer climates.  Canning made it possible to get tomatoes to market in England.

    •  My grandmother, a Jersey girl, used to tell (16+ / 0-)

      us that tomatoes were considered poisonous when she was young (that would have been in the 1880's or so) but she was happy to learn that they were not as they were one of her favorite veggies. Fried, green or red -- she loved them, as well as fresh off the vine.
      We grew lots of tomatoes in north-central Jersey -- mostly Rutgers -- during the war years (WWII), so I found this diary most interesting. On good years our family couldn't keep up with the crop even with canning dozens of jars, and my brother and I went around house to house and sold them for $1 a "peach" basket (1/2 bushel). $1 will get you about 1 tomato these days, and they can't compare with those old Rutgers.
      One summer, as a teenager, I picked for a commercial grower who trucked his crop to the Campbell plant in Camden, so I've seen a lot of Rutgers tomatoes.
      One more connection -- quite by coincidence -- I happened to do my graduate work in a building donated by and named after the very same John Dorrance who made his fortune, in part at least, from the Jersey Rutgers tomato crop.

  •  Will you be able to cover cherry tomatoes? (14+ / 0-)

    Please..   And currant tomatoes that we are growing and I'll soon have to pick.

  •  Intellectual property? (8+ / 0-)

    Patenting living organisms is a new and frankly terrible idea. In the time frame you discuss here, it would not even have been something sane people considered as a possibility. Patents, trade marks, and copyright do not exist to enrich their creators. They exist to enrich the public by encouraging creators to share their creations. Says so right on the label. Certain things, like mathematical formulas, maps, rules to games, and collections of facts such as encyclopedias, and living organisms, were never intended to be covered under the copyright and patent clause.

  •  Alas, thought I had a bunch of heirlooms growing.. (8+ / 0-)

    ...but I did find Ramapo plants at Duffield's farm in Sewell N. J. to grow. Nowhere else. Growing a couple of Brandywines from seed. Also planted the Rutgers seeds I saved thinking they were heirlooms. Wish I picked up a pack of Moreton seeds that were available at Lowe's.  

  •  After your last diary (17+ / 0-)

    I followed your advice and went to seedsavers.org to take a look. I thought I was going to look at tomatoes but everything else was so beautiful that I think I spent an hour just looking at melons.

    So thanks for that.

    •  Isn't Seedsavers great? (9+ / 0-)

      I'm so glad you followed the link and found it worth spending some time there.  It's a great organization of very dedicated gardeners and heritage plant preservers.

      BTW...they were established, I believe (I could check, but I'm being lazy now) in 1975 or 1976.  Early on, when they published their annual yearbook listing heritage plant varieties, I believe there were already around 8 different listings for various strains of the Rutgers Tomato.  It has several progeny.

      Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 04:32:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I love Seedsavers! (6+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aunt Pat, tonyahky, Dumbo, JanL, marleycat, 1918

        Although my Bountiful Bean that they advertised as bush-habit is climbing up poles like crazy... I should probably get back to them about that.  (Sorry to bring beans into a tomato diary, but 1918 started it with the melons!)

        If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

        by AnnieJo on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 06:50:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Kudos for tomato diaries. (11+ / 0-)

    I posted this in the CORN diary yesterday, with some tomato comments linked here.
    This was my comment:
    I have been growing tomatoes for over 40 years and presently here in N. California I have a welcome glut of red ones. My thoughts on heirlooms: you can get some good ones some of the time but results may vary. I stick with primarily Early Girls, but grow ace, celebrity, centennial, and some kind of romas. From comments on my tomatoes people compare them to those from Italy. Irrigation is required here because it doesn't rain from April to November.

    Ceiling Cat rules....srsly.

    by side pocket on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 03:58:29 PM PDT

  •  Hmmmm...we are growing "Rutgers" tomatoes from (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tonyahky, tapestry, weck, Aunt Pat, Dumbo, JanL, Ahianne

    seed we got from Fedco. I wonder where they fit into your story? Also, does anyone have anything to say about Oregons? We are trying those too.

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 03:59:08 PM PDT

  •  I have never grown Rutgers tomatoes myself (10+ / 0-)

    I don't know what kind my parents used to grow. I like little roma tomatoes and mortgage lifters. I got some good yields out of some Amish paste tomatoes a few years, too.

    The trick to saving seeds from any kind of heirloom--whether it's tomatoes or beans or anything else, is to save seed every year from the best producing, healthiest looking plants. Over the course of several years, your garden will become better adapted to the conditions in your area.

  •  Really interesting and well written (9+ / 0-)

    Thank you for this series.

    A suggestion, if you don't mind. Add a photo or two whenever you can.

  •  Republished (8+ / 0-)

    to environmental foodies.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 04:41:05 PM PDT

  •  Perhaps I've said this before, but it bears (23+ / 0-)

    repeating.

    I want to thank every one of you who read my diaries...those who read them as they find them, and feel inclined to check them out, and those who follow me.  And a special thanks to whomever my fan or fans may be among the Rescue Rangers.

    This is a political website.  People come here for their political fix, and the latest news.  I include myself in that group.  It's why I come here.  But I also love the diaries that wind up in Community Spotlight.  I often find them better written, and more quirky, more interesting than the ones that end up up the rec list.  Whoever came up with the idea of Community Spotlight in the first place deserves some serious kudos.

    It makes DKos a whole experience.  A web destination for not just news and commentary, but serendipity.  I looked back just now upon some of the diaries I have written over the years that landed here...diaries about Mail Pouch Tobacco Barns, kudzu, ginseng and mushroom pickers, small town motels stretched along our nation's interstates and old U.S. routes, tomatoes, Dogwood trees, recession gardens and midnight gardens, old Volkswagens and the first love of one's first car.....

    Where else can a wannabe writer post diaries of such a varied nature that manage to attract attention?  Let alone on a political website.  What it tells me is that people come here for a purpose, but they don't check their curiosity at the door.  This isn't a political Tombstone, Arizona, policed by the Earps and populated by a citizenry who just wants to feel safe.

    People come here for their own reasons...but they feel free to stray from those reasons when something catches their interest...and they are supportive of anything that feeds their curiosity.  

    That is an important quality here, that just about no other website I am familiar with possesses.  The Administration here facilitates it, and encourages it...but at the end of the day it is the readers who validate it.

    There are so many writers here who have captured me as a reader over the years.  Some are not as active as the once were...(Are you listening, LandofEnchantment?), and some are just coming onto their own.

    But I just wanted to take a moment, while I have a spotlight, to say thank you to everyone here who keeps this place as diverse and as interesting and as informative and as current as it is.  There's really nothing quite like it.

    There are some good writers here, to be sure.  But more importantly, there are willing and eager readers here, whose interests are as varied as the community itself.  

    I love the content here.  I love the mix of readers even more.  

    Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 06:19:43 PM PDT

    •  Amen! (6+ / 0-)

      I look at the list of groups I belong to and see music, books, comedy, grammar, grieving... even kindness. I tell people whenever I link to a non-political diary here that we don't just do politics. That we have a wide array of writers and topics. And so many of these writers are terrific.

      BTW, we grow the gold cherry tomatoes, among others. When we're out in our sunroom, we will "graze" on them and the basil: a tomato and a leaf popped in the mouth is heaven!

      Thank your stars you're not that way/Turn your back and walk away/Don't even pause to ask them why/Turn around and say 'goodbye'/Just wish them well.....

      by Purple Priestess on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 07:00:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If you dig a little (5+ / 0-)

      most topics are political. I think the great heirloom tomato craze is due to people's mistrust of agro-business in general.  The instability in food supply in so many places today makes home gardening appealing if not necessary.

      Daily Kos is a great place.

    •  How to find out who your spotlight angel is... (0+ / 0-)

      At the bottom of your diary you'll see the message "reposted to bla bla bla..." and a list of other groups, one of them being Community Spotlight.  Click that and scroll down (probably not very far) to see where your diary is posted, and you'll usually see a little comment in italics inserted at the top with a comment by whomever spotlighted your diary about why he/she liked it.

      Also -- (I observe this as somebody who has had a delightful and unfair number of spotlights over the past year) it turns out that your spotlighted diary may show up in a number of places you don't expect.  Google your diary title and/or the first sentence of your diary a week from now and see where it got picked up.  I've had some diaries linked to and reposted intact on places like Huffpost and various radio sites.  It's a nice compensation for those times when you think there's only a few Kossacks reading.

  •  This was fascinating, thank you! (9+ / 0-)

    And I don't even grow tomatoes :)

    I had the same impression of NJ as you did when I first moved to the tri-state area. Went to a farmer's market; they were selling NJ peaches. I was skeptical--really good peaches had to be from the south! But the NJ ones were so juicy and "peachy," I was a convert and look for them all the time now.

    Thanks again for the diary. Sorry I have nothing to contribute re tomatoes, but I enjoyed it immensely.

  •  I have read that Campbell's Soup Company (6+ / 0-)

    was notable among Camden's big three employers as being particularly hostile to unions over the course of their history there.  They began to slowly move parts of their processing operation out of New Jersey long before the translocation of tomato growing towards California ever necessitated such moves.  In fact, they moved parts of their operation to Southern, "right to work" states that are not major players in the national tomato network...much as manufacturers of items as diverse as bicycles, lawnmowers, chainsaws, cars, or any number of other manufactured items that originally were made in the Rust Belt moved their operations there...simply to escape unionized employees.

    While researching this diary I looked for some source that would tell me how many employees Campbell's employed in their heyday, but I didn't find one.

    I'd be curious to hear from some Jersey folks whose parents or grandparents...or perhaps even they themselves, worked for the company.  Exactly how big was its footprint in New Jersey?  Camden?  What was the culture between mngt and workers?  Do people miss Campbell's?  

    I really hope to hear from some New Jerseyites before this diary hits the dark side of the moon.

    Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 07:27:40 PM PDT

    •  Campbells treatment of farmers (7+ / 0-)

      I had a conversation many years ago with a farmer in New Jersey who grew tomatoes for Campbells.

      He said that the farmers would que up at the Campbells plant at the crack of dawn to deliver their tomatoes.

      The Campbells people would very very slowly purchase the wagon loads of tomatoes. After a time they would declare that the tomatoes were out in the sun and heat too long that day, and force the farmers to accept a much lower price for their "spoiled" produce.

      He was still bitter about the deliberate scam.

      "Humankind cannot bear very much reality." - T.S. Eliot

      by fixxit on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 09:47:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You want scenery? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, JanL

    go to the valley of the Delaware, or better, the Muscenetcong Rivers. or just the Delaware Water gap.

    Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
    I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

    by Leo in NJ on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 07:59:34 PM PDT

    •  I was waiting for you, Leo (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo, Leo in NJ

      Thanks for checking in.  I know...I know...my impressions of New Jersey are founded upon crap.  With the distinct exception of that girl from Moonachie.  She was the real deal.

      Got any good Jersey beefsteak anecdotes?  Or, perhaps a good Rider University joke?

      Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 08:19:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Only NJ joke I know: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marleycat

        Two Jersey mosquitoes are carrying off a horse between them. Onae say to  the other, "Where are we going to stash this horse where the big guys won't find him and take him away from us?"

        Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
        I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

        by Leo in NJ on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 10:33:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here's a Rider College joke for you (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JanL, Leo in NJ

          Why do Rider grads place their diplomas on the dash of their cars?

          So they can park in handicapped only spaces.

          I love regional jokes.  And as a grad of Ohio State, which in the 70's had the largest undergrad population in the US...it was still just a really big Cow college.

          Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

          by Keith930 on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 01:53:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  always last to the party (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, Ahianne

    I always seem to stumble in late to a diary where I can make a comment. Sorry about that.

    Anyway, I grew four types of heirloom tomatoes last year in Winnipeg. I got the biggest yield from the Amish Paste. The best tasting were perhaps Gold Medal, a variety with very large fruits that are striped red and yellow. Another one that i liked very much was called Cream Sausage, a smaller yellow oval type shaped like a Roma.  The last one was Brandywine.  They were OK, but I didn't get much yield.  All of my seeds came from Seedsavers.

    This year I am growing all of the above, plus a one new variety. I met a woman at the dog park who was also a seed saver, and she gave me some seeds she simply called "Russian."  I don't know if they are akin to the Anna Russian you mentioned in your diary, or something else that has just been saved and handed down through the years. (There is a very large group of ethnic Ukrainians in Manitoba.)  The plants are doing well, but all my tomatoes seem to be a little behind this year.  I flowers but no fruit yet.  

  •  On the subject of beefsteaks... (4+ / 0-)

    A few years ago, I had a thread going over at Gardenweb where I was asking the gurus what kind of tomato it was that my mother (now 92) might have grown on the family farm when she was a kid.  She described it to me as best she could, saying it tasted better than tomatoes today, and that it had green shoulders and that it was shaped like a beefsteak.

    Some people tried to suggest that it was an heirloom like Purple Cherokee, which was impossible, because I GREW Purple Cherokee already and nobody in my family, including my mom, would touch them at first because they were so weird and scary looking.  No, she assured me that her tomatoes when she was a little girl were red tomatoes, flattened rather than round, and they were green on top when they picked them.

    After a lot of futzing around, and going back and forth from my mom to the internet (people on gardening forums love this kind of "what did my mama grow" stuff), the word Henderson's rang a bell with her.  Henderson's was a big seed company in the 1920s that produced a number of the big commercial varieties back then, and it's doubtful my family would have been experimenting with anything the neighbors weren't growing.  Henderson's sold a lot of one particular tomato seed variety called Crimson Cushion which is considered an heirloom today, but back in the 1920s was an important commercial crop.

    If you google for images of Crimson Cushion, you'll get pics for it very easily.  It does have green shoulders before it's ripe, because, lacking the uniform ripeness gene that destroys flavor, as Keith talked about last week, Crimson Cushion ripens from the bottom up.  Giving it "green shoulders."  

    Crimson Cushion went through a number of name changes over the years before settling down to what is called Beefsteak.  Just Beefsteak.  The beefsteak called Beefsteak.  That simple.  You can still see plain ol' Beefsteak plants for sale sometimes at the gardening store, but it's hard to guarantee that although it has lineage going back to Crimson Cushion (and also at times called Red Ponderosa), that it has the same flavor.

    I grew some for my mom from purchased seeds labeled Crimson Cushion right on the package.  She was pleased although she didn't do any backflips.  I thought it was very good, but not the greatest I had had, though.  And it had that heirloom quality of not tasting like a store tomato at all.

    •  the people who research heirlooms collect old (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo

      seed catalogs the same way that some people collect comic books.  For just the reason you describe.  

      You can look back at a seed catalog published in 1920, and often times either the description of the plant or the delineation of the parentage will answer those questions.

      The guy I mentioned in Part I....Craig LeHuillier, probably owns a cedar chest full of old seed catalogs.  The first seed catalogs, I'm guessing, came out around 1875 or so.

      Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 11:22:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  maybe it's not the tomato, Dumbo (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo

      Perhaps your Mom is simply past the days when she will do backflips over anything.

      I know my Mom is.  Unless it's Blackberry pie.  She'll still manage a backflip for that, and even more remarkably, she still makes them.  Damn the Diabetes...full speed ahead!

      Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 11:28:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ummmm... Blackberries. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sewaneepat

        I used to grow them and raspberries too.  

        She doesn't do backflips for tomatoes but she might do a somersault for a good margarita.  When we go out, one of us has to order one for ourselves so she can then pretend to just give it a taste.  And taste it, and taste it.  

  •  I lived in NYC for a number of years (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marleycat

    I always looked forward to Jersey Tomato Season.  I'd get me a bunch and eat them all week. One quick dinner was simply olive oil, garlic and Jersey toms sauteed and then over angel hair with a fresh chopped parsley garnish - a five minute dinner and a great way to highlight the fresh tomato flavor.
    Americans seem to have lost the art of understanding flavor in their fruits and veggies. But not surprising since you can't really get good produce in markets. When I was a kid, they sold locally grown and supplemented with other fruits/veg when necessary. Now it's all produce from who-knows-where, never local (Well, Shaw's has been trying, but it's mostly in corn season).
    I'm trying to grow my own tomatoes this summer. I don't exactly have what you'd call a green thumb, but I'm tryin'!

    Isn’t it ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray. ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring ~

    by MA Liberal on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 04:38:03 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for this Keith! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne

       I always enjoy a good gardening gabfest. I need to check out that Seedsaver outfit. I have some onions that have been passed down to me from Dad.

       Tried Early Girl this year. Had a ripe one, honest, may 31st, a personal best and neighborhood record. This in south central Illinois......

       Two soda flats full  on kitchen counter right now, going to town later to give to my friends......

    Best, HH99

    Compost for a greener planet.............got piles?

    by Hoghead99 on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 06:08:55 AM PDT

  •  This seems a good place to post my 2nd favorite (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, alicia

    tomato sandwich. (BLT being my favorite.)

    Toast your favorite bread. Spread both sides with pesto. Add sliced cucumbers, slice of a sweet onion, and sliced tomatoes. Assume the Guy Fieri hunched over position (elbows out, butt back, shoulders forward, torso curved, lean over plate or sink, and bite).

    You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

    by sewaneepat on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 06:21:34 AM PDT

  •   I can't even set you up for a commercial. You (0+ / 0-)

    played a tomato for 30 seconds - they went a half a day over schedule because you wouldn't sit down.

    --I was a tomato! Tomatoes can't sit!

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