Georgia has peaches, Florida and California have oranges but New Jersey is blessed with the best tomatoes in the world! In fact, the tomato is so beloved in the state of New Jersey that it has been named the official state vegetable. Although there is a great debate going on over whether the tomato is actually a fruit or a vegetable. Technically, I am told, it is a fruit but since the state fruit spot is already occupied by the blueberry the legislature solved this problem by declaring the Jersey tomato a vegetable.
Whether fruit or vegetable, the Jersey tomato is a delectable seasonal treat, highly prized not only on its home ground but in neighboring states and the nearby big cities of New York and Philadelphia as well. Sliced, diced, cooked or raw the Jersey tomato makes a glutton’s heart beat faster. July and August are when the Jersey tomato is plentiful. By September the season is pretty much over and I personally do not buy fresh tomatoes for the rest of the year. It’s not that I am into local, sustainable, and organic produce; it is also that having tasted the best, I cannot stomach the rest. Out of season tomatoes, whether trucked in from California or Mexico or flown in from the Southern Hemisphere, are picked green, ripened artificially. I know of one company called Houweling’s in California that grow their tomatoes under a glass enclosed structure that provides a growing environment closed to the weather pressure, but open to the natural rays of the sun. Which turns out a nice tomato. Now July and August are my months to pig out on local Jersey tomatoes right from my restaurants very own Great Road Farm here in Princeton, NJ. The rest of the year I am happy to do without.
Fun fact: Ever here of the Campbell Soup Company? Of Course you have!! Did you know they began making canned tomato soup in its Camden, New Jersey location in the 1870’s, using truckloads of Jersey tomatoes. We can all agree Campbell’s Tomato Soup a staple of the American kitchen.