Demand for Jersey tomatoes is high and this season looks good, NJ farmers say
🍅 New Jersey's tomato season typically runs from mid-June to October
🍅 The crop looks good and plentiful this year
🍅 What sets a Jersey tomato apart from the rest?
Nothing says summer like a juicy, red Jersey tomato.
The state is in the heart of tomato growing season, which generally kicks off in mid-June and lasts through the first frost in October.
Jersey tomatoes like warm, dry conditions and sandy soil, said Charles Muzzarelli, owner of the family-run Muzzarelli Farms in Vineland.
On his farm, he grows 10 acres of mostly grape and plum tomatoes.
While the tomatoes can handle temperatures over 90 degrees, it’s not something that farmers hope for, and the vegetable likes cold nights, said Joel Viereck, President of the New Jersey Vegetable Growers Association, and farm manager at Viereck Farms in Woolwich Township, Gloucester County.
How does this year’s tomato crop look in New Jersey?
It is looking like a fair to normal crop so far this year, Muzzarelli said.
Viereck agrees but added that heavy rains in parts of the state made tomato growing a challenge. “The cooler nights that we’ve had here and there have made the ripening of the tomatoes a little bit slower,” he said.
Nevertheless, this year, there has been a high demand for Jersey tomatoes, Viereck said. Farmers all over the state have been busy growing and picking them.
He said there should be plenty of Jersey tomatoes available for the rest of the season.
How have Jersey tomatoes contributed to the state economy?
On average, there are roughly 3,600 acres of tomatoes growing in New Jersey between grape, cherry, round, and plum tomatoes, Viereck said.
“Of that, about 90 million pounds of tomatoes are produced in New Jersey every given year, and they have a harvest value of about $72 million,” Viereck said.
When is the right time to pick a Jersey tomato off the vine?
“It all depends on what you’re picking it for. If you’re picking it for a chain store, you’re picking it more on the greener side. But if you’re picking it for a roadside market, you’re picking more on the red side,” Muzzarelli said.
“Generally, when we go to our fields to pick tomatoes, we like to see about 20% color change in the tomato, a little bit of pink on there,” Viereck said.
Gardeners may like to keep the tomatoes on the vines until they are completely red.
Both agree that the redder the tomato, the better it will come off the vine.
How should you store freshly-picked Jersey tomatoes at home?
Both Muzzarelli and Viereck both agree that Jersey tomatoes should be stored on the counter in the kitchen at room temperature.
The tomatoes can be placed in the refrigerator if you want to save the lighter-colored ones so they don’t all ripen at once, but generally, room temperature is best.
What makes a Jersey tomato different from other tomatoes?
Hands down, the soil, Muzzarelli said.
“There is something about the Jersey soil that just gives tomatoes its good, rich flavor,” Muzzarelli said.
Viereck wholeheartedly agrees that the soil in New Jersey, which is sandy and drains well, allows tomatoes to grow better, hold up nicer, and contribute to their robust taste.
“That being the case, we are able to grow some varieties here that aren’t able to be grown in other parts of the country,” Viereck said.
On his farm, Primo Red is a variety that he likes because it responds really well to the temperature and the soil types that exist in the Garden State.
Three other popular varieties of tomatoes that grow well in New Jersey besides Primo Red are Red Deuce, Red Morning, and Rambler.
No matter what kind of tomato you fancy, whether it’s grape, cherry, round, or plum, both Muzzarelli and Viereck agree it’s important to get them locally.
Either purchase them from a local farmstand or market or ask for Jersey Fresh tomatoes from your local supermarket.
“Buy local and support local farmers,” Muzzarelli said.