[New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station]
Jersey Fresh Information Exchange
Photo: Jersey Produce

What about the 'Rutgers' Tomato?

The justly famous Rutgers tomato was introduced in 1934 by Rutgers breeder Lyman Schermerhorn as an ideal locally well-adapted and improved "General Use" tomato for processing (canning and juicing) as well as fresh market. Rutgers tomato was developed and released in the period between WW I and WW II, during expansion of canning and truck farming, when 36,000+ acres of tomatoes were grown in the Garden State.

Rutgers was a genuine horticultural improvement over non-certified saved seeds, as well as over commercial varieties like Pritchard, Marglobe, and J.T.D. (the latter two used as breeding sources to create Rutgers). Breeding objectives resulted in an amazing array of improved attributes, including:

- Pleasing flavor and taste of the juice;
- More uniform sparkling red internal color ripening from center of the tomato outward;
- Smooth skin;
- Freedom from fruit cracking;
- 'Second early' maturity;
- Handsome flattened globe shape;
- Vigorous healthy foliage to ripen more fruit and reduce sunscald;
- Firm thick fleshy fruit walls for its time, though considered extremely soft by today's definition of tomato firmness;
- Uniformity true to type in the field.

Not only did Rutgers provide a top performing tomato for New Jersey's processors, from Campbell Soup, Heinz, Hunt, and Ritter to smaller companies, but Rutgers tomato continued to be a preferred choice of commercial growers through much of the mid-twentieth century. It was grown worldwide, and used in breeding and selection of other improved varieties.

While no longer grown commercially, the Rutgers tomato remained popular, especially with home gardeners. Selections of the Rutgers tomato are available through many home garden seed catalogs. However, when Rutgers was released by the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Professor L. Schermerhorn invited and encouraged seedsmen to continue selecting for true types in their seed fields. Thus, the original Rutgers tomato line is long lost, and all the seeds sold today are derivative selections, possibly even different cultivars, from the original. We do not have original seed maintained here at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Read about our efforts to bring back the "original" Rutgers tomato (story on page2).

Read the original 1934 announcement by the New Jersey State Horticultural Society, "Scientific Breeding Gives New Jersey the Rutgers Tomato".