CHRISTMAS TREES 12/01/18

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 Ever since I was a little boy helping my father sell Christmas trees, the Napolitanos have been a Christmas family. I still remember Pop getting up from the Thanksgiving day table, changing his clothes, getting into his truck, and heading up to Canada and northern New York to get a load of Christmas trees – that ritual went on for most of my youth until farmers starting delivering to him.
Our slogan was “10,000 trees, $1.99, none higher,” and we sold out every year, but that was a long time ago and as trees started to be pruned and farmed, their prices rose.
Most of the trees that we sold grew wild and were “Charlie Brown” trees, but as years passed and cultivated trees came along, we still sold thousands each year. It was hard work standing in the cold by the fire barrel, roasting yams, potatoes and corn, but I have fond memories of those great days.
As the years passed and I took over our family store, Napolitano’s Produce in Bergenfield,  we still carried on the tradition of selling trees and, of course, operating the fire cans – my customers loved the potatoes and yams we cooked as they picked out their trees.
I miss that Christmas tree business very much. Even now, though the store has been closed for years, I still drive my wife, Bette, nuts by stopping by as many Christmas tree stands as I can and just watching people experience the joy of picking out a Christmas tree. This weeks segment on Christmas Trees was shot at Goffle Brook Farm in Ridgewood New Jersey, a great family run business .
CHRISTMAS TREESChristmas trees sold in America hail largely from Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Washington and Canada. The nation’s most popular varieties – and also my favorites – are Balsam, Douglas Fir, and Fraser Fir. The planting and growth of Christmas trees as an industry has positive effects on the environment, from improving soil stability to reducing greenhouse gases.
DID YOU KNOW ?

  • There are 350 million Christmas trees currently growing in all 50 states
  • There are approximately 25-30 million real Christmas trees sold in the U.S. every year
  • For every Christmas tree harvested, 1-3 seedlings are planted the following spring
  • It takes 15 years to grow a typical 6- to 7-foot-high Christmas tree
  • When a Christmas tree is cut, more than half of its weight is water. To ensure freshness, always make a fresh cut on the bottom of the trunk and make sure the stand never runs out of water; if that happens, the tree will sap over, prevent the tree from getting water, and the tree will dry out.

MYTHS AND TIPS

  • Many people are under the impression that Christmas trees can cause fires. A well cared-for Christmas tree, however, will remain fresh and shouldn’t catch fire – in fact, there have been many examples of houses that have burned completely except for the Christmas tree. Others believe that live Christmas trees dry up and shed needles. The truth is that fresh trees, which have been properly hydrated and cared for, shed very little and can last for two months or more. Here’s some other useful advice regarding tree selection and maintenance:
  • When buying a tree outdoors, be aware that the sky is your ceiling, so what looks small outside may be big indoors. Choose a tree sized at least 1 foot below your ceiling height so there’s adequate room for the stand and decorations.
  • Make sure the bottom of the tree is long enough to be placed in the stand. About an inch must be cut off the bottom when setting up the tree at home.
  • When assessing a tree’s freshness, run your hand over the branches – needles shouldn’t be brittle, break, or come off.
  • Keep your newly-purchased tree in a sheltered, unheated area such as a porch or garage to protect it from the wind until you’re ready to decorate it.
  • Before installing the tree in your home, cut the butt end of your tree 1 inch above the original cut, and immediately place the tree in a stand that holds a minimum of one gallon of hot water.
  • Be sure to check the water level of your tree stand every day to ensure that it never runs out of water. A new tree will absorb up to a gallon of water on the first day and will consume about a quart per day thereafter. Water is important because it prevents the needles from drying out/dropping off and maintains the fragrance of the tree. If your tree runs out of water (for a period exceeding two hours), make another straight cut across the base of the trunk.
  • Keep your tree away from heat and draft sources like fireplaces, radiators and television sets. Test your light cords and connections before hanging them on the tree to make sure they’re in good working order and don’t use cords with cracked insulation or broken or empty sockets. Also, use only UL or FM-approved light strings on a live tree and no spotlights, floodlights or candles. Be sure to unplug lights before you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Avoid overloading electrical circuits or creating octopus connections and make sure there’s an operational smoke detector installed nearby.
  • Use only noncombustible decorations.
  • Don’t burn tree branches in the fireplace, as they could throw off a large amount of heat and cause a fire. Christmas trees also create an oily soot, which could damage the fireplace.

Here is an inexpensive solution you can make at home to help preserve the life and freshness of your tree:PRODUCE PETE’S CHRISTMAS TREE PRESERVATIVEINGREDIENTS:1 gallon hot water2 cups Karo syrup4 teaspoons bleach (plain)6 iron tablets, crushed and dissolvedDIRECTIONS:

  • Make a fresh cut on the tree with a saw by cutting 1-inch off the bottom of the trunk.
  • Place the tree in the stand, then add the hot water mixture so that the fresh cut doesn’t dry up and resist taking the water.
  • Always keep the stand full of water mixture.

For me and my family, Christmas and the holidays are a very special time – I guess I’m still a kid at heart. From the Produce Pete family to all of you, wishing you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday Season, and a Happy and Healthy New YearClick on the link below for our Christmas Tree segment.

https://www.nbcnewyork.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Produce-Pete_-Christmas-Trees_New-York-501703061.html

THANKSGIVING TABLE 11/17/18

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Cranberries

Cranberries have been a part of the American holiday scene for many years. Raw berries are pretty strung with popcorn to make old-fashioned garlands for the Christmas tree. They're also used during the Jewish high holy days to construct little houses used in the celebration of Succoth. And although a lot of people have become accustomed to using canned cranberry sauce, it's quick and easy to make a delicious sauce from whole fresh berries. People are also starting to discover how useful cranberries are beyond Thanksgiving and Christmas. These festive, very firm red berries add great flavor to a lot of foods. Generally a half inch to an inch in diameter, cranberries are oval in shape, with a smooth, glossy, red to deep red skin, and contain tiny, soft, edible seeds. They are too tart for most people and require some sweetening. Cranberries are a member of the health family (Encaceae), which also includes blueberries, loganberries, and huckleberries. Their natural habitat is a swamp or bog in temperate climates, such as Wisconsin, Cape Cod, and Long Island. Native Americans used cranberries for dyes, medicines, and food, including a dish made of cranberries and dried meat. The various Indians names for cranberries translate as "sour berries" but settlers called them crane berries, possibly because they were favored by cranes or because the plant and flower look like one of these elegant birds. By the nineteenth century, American sailors and loggers were using cranberries to make a drink to prevent scurvy. Today cranberries are cultivated in shallow bogs that are flooded with water at appropriate times during the season. They are important crops in Massachusetts and New Jersey and are also cultivated in Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington State, British Columbia, and Quebec. 

Season and Selecting

Fresh cranberries are available from September to January. They're usually packaged in twelve-ounce cello bags, which yield about three cups. Packaged cranberries are always sold in good condition unless there has been a problem with refrigeration. Their high acid content gives them a long shelf life. 

Storing

Packaged unwashed fresh cranberries will stay fresh up to four weeks in the refrigerator. You can freeze unwashed berries in doubled, well-sealed plastic bags, and they'll keep for as long as a year. Rinse them briefly, pick out the stems and use directly in recipes without thawing - they collapse when thawed. 

Preparing

Wash well just before using, discarding the stems and any soft, wilted or bruised berries. Cranberries need to be sweetened with sugar, honey, maple syrup or other fruit juices. The high pectin content in cranberries makes them an ideal fruit for jellies or fruit chutney. Besides the popular cooked sauce and jelly used to accompany poultry and meats, cranberries can be made into an equally delicious uncooked relish. Grind or mince one package of cleaned berries with the grated zest and chopped pulp of one orange. Mix with 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar, add cinnamon if desired, and let the mixture stand overnight in the refrigerator. Cranberries are excellent mixed with apples or pears in pies and tarts. Apples are delicious stuffed with sweetened cranberry sauce, or try stuffing pears with cranberry sauce, sprinkling them with orange juice and cinnamon, and baking in a 325¡F oven for twenty minutes. Cranberry muffins are understandably popular, but your family will also enjoy cranberry nut loaf, cranberry upside-down cake, and cranberry cheesecake. Cranberry juice is delicious mixed with apple juice or lemonade, and cranberry sorbet is a refreshing treat.
 

Yams - Potato, Sweet

Ninety percent of what you see in the stores marked "yams" is actually a variety of sweet potato. The true yam is a tuber that can get as large as 100 pounds and grows primarily in the tropical zones of Africa. The potato with the sweet orange-red flesh that grows in the American South was dubbed a yam years ago and the name stuck. American sweet potatoes are members of the morning glory family. The rich orange-fleshed variety is harvested beginning in August; the fresh ones that show up on the market then have not been cured. The bulk of the crop is held in a heated, humidity-controlled environment for about a week. This "cures" the potato and converts much of its starch to dextrins and sugar. A cured sweet potato is actually much sweeter than an uncured one and is what usually shows up on the Thanksgiving table. There are two other varieties of sweet potato that are much less frequently seen these days than the one that masquerades as a yam. The red sweet potato has a yellow flesh that's a bit sweeter than the white sweet potato, which has a white, more fibrous flesh. The red sweet potato has a dark, reddish skin and is in season about the same time as the yam type - starting in September. It keeps better than the white sweet potato, which has a very short season - usually the last couple of weeks in August. 

Season

Avoid buying sweet potatoes in June and July, by then most of them have been stored for nearly a year. Uncured sweet potatoes start showing up on the market in late August; cured sweet potatoes arrive around the end of October. By Thanksgiving almost all that are on the market have been cured. The less common white and red sweet potatoes have a much shorter season at the end of the summer. 

Selecting

Look for bright-colored, un-bruised skin with no soft spots. Look at the ends of the potatoes, which should be firm. Most sweet potatoes have some fibrous roots on them; these are not a problem.
I LOVE A FAMILY BUSINESS, THAT'S WHAT I GREW UP IN, AND WHENEVER I GET A CHANCE TO GO TO A FAMILY RUN BUSINESS I JUMP AT THE CHANCE. TODAY'S SEGMENT ON YAMS AND CRANBERRIES FOR YOUR THANKSGIVING TABLE IS FROM A FAMILY RUN BUSINESS CALLED DE CICCO & SONS IN ARMONK, NEW YORK. STARTED IN 1972 IN A TINY STOREFRONT IN THE BRONX , THIS FAMILY RUN BUSINESS HAS GROWN TO SEVEN STORES WITH A REPUTATION OF ONLY THE HIGHEST QUALITY AND A WELL -CEMENTED REPUTATION OF BEING THE FOOD MARKET OF CHOICE."SO ENJOY AND FROM MY FAMILY TO YOURS A HEALTHY AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING"  Click on link below for Thanksgiving Show

https://www.nbcnewyork.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Produce-Pete_-Thanksgiving_New-York-500748201.html

NEW JERSEY EGGPLANT 08/04/18

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 Did you know that New Jersey grows about 66 percent of the world’s eggplants?It’s true! The majority of eggplant production is located in South Jersey, especially Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem and Atlantic counties, and smaller production sites are also located in Monmouth and Burlington counties.Production is mainly for wholesale shipment to the eastern U.S. and Canada, depending on the time of year. A small volume of eggplants is produced in the northern part of the state for roadside stands and farmers markets.Eggplants are harvested by hand one to two times a week depending on temperature. Because they need well-drained, sandy-loam soil to grow, New Jersey offers the perfect conditions for this purple plant. Ferrari Farms, R & R Flame Farms, and Scapellato Farms in South Jersey are huge eggplant growers and friends of mine.  There eggplants in the field are a beautiful sight.When I was a young man running our produce store in Bergenfield, I would buy from my local farmers all summer long; I remember getting fresh peppers and eggplants picked that day at Binaghi Farm in Old Tappan, as well as at Smith Farms just over the border in New City, New York.Farmers like Wally Smith and Ronnie Binaghi were more than business partners to me and my family —they were friends and felt more like extended family.Fresh Jersey produce right off the farm is a treat that everyone should experience, so please support your local farmer, farm stand and local farmers markets all summer long.Ever since I was 4 selling produce off the back of my father’s truck, I’ve understood that the farmer is the backbone of America. Although my childhood was hard and my family worked seven days a week, I wouldn’t have traded my life growing up for anything; looking back, they were truly the best years of my life.

Locally Grown Eggplant

Eggplants got their name because eggplants used to come in only one color--white. Hanging from the plant, they looked like eggs. The problem was that when they were shipped, they tended to bruise and scar easily. So the hybridizers went to work to develop an eggplant that wouldn't scar and in the process widened the variety. The eggplant is a member of the nightshade family. We're almost positive it originally came from India and spread to Europe by way of Africa. Italians were growing it by the fourteenth century, but you'll find that eggplant doesn't figure in northern Italian cuisine as it does in southern. That's because it needs heat to grow--heat and considerable irrigation. From Europe eggplants spread to the Americas and were being cultivated in Brazil by the mid 1600's. In some places the eggplant is known as the "mad apple"--from mala insana, meaning "bad egg" or "bad apple." Legend has it that an Indian traveler ate some raw eggplant, had a fit, and people thought the eggplant had poisoned him. Some people still think eggplants are poisonous. Early in the growing season, eggplants produce beautiful star-shaped blue-violet flowers. The eggplant is the berry that forms after the flower drops. 

Varieties

The most commonly available eggplant is a deep purple that's almost black. These range in size anywhere from four ounces to 1 1/2 pounds. The original white eggplant is now very trendy. It is generally smaller than the purple variety, and a lot of people say it's more-tender, but I don't really see any difference. It's more expensive than the purple kind because it's not cultivated as widely. All the varieties are good, but I'm particularly fond of the Spanish eggplant, which has purple and white stripes. These seem to be a little heavier in texture and taste. 

Season

Baby or Italian eggplants have long been popular on the East Coast; they're available in the summer months, with the peak in July through September. In sunnier climates they're available year round, but the supplies may be limited. Other varieties are generally available year round. 

Selecting

Round, oval, or pear-shaped, eggplants may be white, purple or striped. The flesh is firm and creamy white, with a lot of edible white seeds in the center. Baby or Italian eggplants are smaller, with a thinner skin. When choosing an eggplant, look for firm, shiny fruit that's heavy in the hand for its size. The top should be green and fresh-looking; a green cap with little spikes around the stems a sure tip that the eggplant is fresh. Next, look at the blossom end. If it has a round mark, it's a male. If the mark is oval--slightly elongated--it's a female. The females are firmer and have fewer seeds. The fewer seeds the eggplant has, the less bitter it will be. Now hold the eggplant in your hand. If it's large but feels light, it will be pulpy. Press the flesh gently with your thumb. If it leaves an indentation, pass that eggplant by. Unless you're making gumbroit, the eggplant should be firm, with no wrinkling or soft spots. If it's the purple variety, it should be smooth and shiny, not dull. 

Storing

Store at room temperatures on the cool side, or wrap loosely and store in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. A firm eggplant will keep for several days. 

Preparing

Eggplant has a slightly bitter taste, especially when mature. To get rid of it, peel the eggplant (the skin is likely to be both bitter and a little tough), then slice it, sprinkle with salt, and allow it to drain in a colander for up to half an hour. In addition to purging the bitter juices, salting eggplant also helps keep it from absorbing oil when you sauté or fry it.You can bread and fry eggplant or use it in dozens of different vegetable dishes. It's a good, filling substitute for meat in a vegetarian meal. Like my father, I love gumbroit, but my favorite dish is actually eggplant Parmesan, which my wife, Betty, makes with alternate layers of eggplant and zucchini. She also makes a wonderful eggplant rollatini--sliced eggplant rolled and filled and served with a tomato sauce. 

Mom's Lesson

When my father was a youngster, one of his favorite dishes was gumbroit, which is sort of like ratatouille, made with eggplant, squash, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Clean-out-the-refrigerator time. Everyone raved about Nonna's gumbroit. My mother was Irish, but she was the best Italian cook there ever was. Basically, it was my father's mother who taught her how to cook. There were only three things in the world that would make Mom angry: if you talked about her husband, if you talked about her children, or if you talked about her cooking. Whenever my mother made gumbroit, Pop would say, "That's good, but not as good as my mother's." It drove Mom crazy. She made it just the way Nonna taught her. For a long time she tried to figure out what she could be doing wrong. Pop was the twentieth of twenty children and the spoiled baby of the family. He was a very picky eater. My mother knew that. She also knew that with such a big family, my grandmother used to save money by buying fruits and vegetables that had spots or bruises on them. And when they were running their own store, Nonna would take home the stuff that the customers wouldn't buy. It finally dawned on Mom that this was what she was doing wrong. The spotted vegetables Nonna used were absolutely dead ripe. So Mom went down to the store, picked out all the spotted eggplants and squashes and tomatoes, and took them home to make gumbroit. My father absolutely loved it! The problem with most Americans is that they buy with their eyes. Sure, there are things you need to look for when you're buying fresh produce, but just because something looks perfect, it won't necessarily taste good. A winter tomato can be perfectly round and uniformly colored, but it's not going to taste like anything. As often as not your other senses--especially your nose--are going to tell you as much about fruits and vegetables as your eyes will.
CLICK ON LINK BELOW FOR EGGPLANT SHOW
https://www.nbcnewyork.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Produce-Pete-Eggplants_New-York-490062431.html 

NEW JERSEY WHITE AND YELLOW PEACHES 08/25/18

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NEW JERSEY WHITE AND YELLOW PEACHES

Peach production in New Jersey dates back to the early 1600’s. Jersey peach producers are experts in growing, packing, and shipping high quality peaches 

Like most fruits, peaches originated in China and arrived in the United States via the Middle East and Europe. Tender, juicy and aromatic, peaches are thought of as a southern fruit, but California and New Jersey grow huge crops as well. In fact, any temperate area with a long enough growing season will produce peaches, and peaches grown in your area and picked fully ripe are usually your top choice. Of all the places they're grown, though, I think New Jersey peaches are the best.

       All New Jersey peaches are produced and packed within 250 miles of tens of millions of people. Peaches can be picked, packed and shipped to major consumer markets in a few hours. Thus, New Jersey peaches are fresher and transportation costs are less. Peaches spend less time in storage and transit.

New Jersey has ideal day and night temperatures to make the peaches a beautiful shade of red and background yellow. Many varieties developed in other states generally have more color when grown in New Jersey. The ideal weather along with being so close to the final market results in peaches with vibrant color and flavor.

New Jersey growers have invested in improved varieties, irrigation systems, and progressive thinning practices to grow fruit of the size desired by customers and consumers. 

Most of us have no idea how much fuzz peaches have to begin with. Even though they've still got fuzz on them, 90 percent of it has been removed by the time you buy peaches at the market. When I was a kid, New Jersey was about 60 per cent farmland. We bought peaches from a man named Francis Johnson, who had a peach farm four or five towns away from us in Ramsey. I used to go there with my father to pick up peaches for our stand. Although the packing barn was a big red barn, it made me think of a white castle. Peach fuzz covered the whole barn; it was all over the place, completely blanketing the rafters in white, and drifts of fuzz were piled - early September. In the winter there are imports from Chile, but because ripe peaches are so fragile, they're nearly always picked green and have very little flavor. For the best peaches, wait until they're in season in your area; then get your fill. Peeled, sliced peaches freeze well, so you can put some away to enjoy when good fresh peaches aren't available 

 SELECTING

When choosing peaches; use your eyes and your nose. Choose brightly colored fruit without traces of green, without bruising, and with a plump, smooth skin that shows no sign of wrinkling or withering. A really ripe peach will have a good fragrance. 

From the outside, yellow and white peaches are distinguished by their skin color – deep yellow with a red or pink blush for the former versus pale and pink for the latter. Inside, the golden flesh of the yellow peach is more acidic, with a tartness that mellows as the peach ripens and softens. White-fleshed peaches are lower in acid and taste sweet whether firm or soft 

 STORING

Peaches picked hard-ripe but with good color will ripen if you leave them out on the counter, unrefrigerated, for two or three days or put them in a brown paper bag to hasten the process. Don't refrigerate until they're fully ripe, and then don't keep them in the refrigerator for more than a day or two. Like nectarines, peaches lose juice and flavor if they're refrigerated too long. 

HEALTH AND NUTRITION

Peaches are a good source of fiber and vitamin A and C. Fresh, high-quality peaches are sweet tasting and low in calories, with one medium peach furnishing only about 37 calories. What a fantastic snack or guilt-free dessert! 

"Peaches, plums, and nectarines are a delicious way for everyone to get their 5-a-day," said Pat Baird, MA, RD, and author of The Pyramid Cookbook. "They are great sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and now we learn they are good sources of antioxidants which are important to good health and good skin." 

Summer fruits, like peaches and nectarines, are also very rich in antioxidants that help to maintain a great complexion. Antioxidants are substances that protect the body by eliminating free radicals, which cause cell damage and can contribute to aging. The sun brings out free radicals in the skin and antioxidants protect skin cells by counteracting free radical activity. 

"Summer tree fruits have long been considered a delicious source of nutrition, but the fact that the benefits extend to promoting healthy skin is great news for consumers, especially those interested in maintaining a peaches-and-cream complexion."

   PREPARING

Peaches are great for out-of-hand eating. Leave the skins on for more nutritional value. When you need peeled peaches, you can easily remove the skins by dipping the whole peach into boiling water for ten or fifteen seconds, then immediately plunging it into cold water. You can then peel it like a banana. Peaches are delicious peeled, sliced, and marinated in the refrigerator with some sugar, then served either with plain light cream or over vanilla ice cream. Pies, cobblers, preserves, and ice cream are all traditional peach desserts. 

New Jersey Peach Industry Facts

· Approximately 150 peach producers grow 5500 acres of peaches in New Jersey.

· Over 40 peach shippers operate packinghouses capable of packing and marketing 55 to 60 million pounds of quality peaches 

· Yellow-flesh peaches are available from early July through mid to late September.

· White-flesh peaches are available from late July through mid September.

· Peaches and nectarines are available in standard ½-bushel packs as well as various specialty packs. 

· Truckload quantities come from growers in the southern counties: Gloucester, Camden, Atlantic, Cumberland, and Salem.

· Smaller growers disbursed throughout the state grow and distribute peaches through roadside retail markets, farmers’ tailgate markets, and through many of New Jersey’s top restaurants.

· The industry works closely with the Jersey Fresh program to maximize awareness of the quality and availability of New Jersey peaches – New Jersey peaches are Jersey Fresh…As Fresh As Fresh Gets.

· New Jersey peaches have a distribution advantage in that peaches can be picked, packed, and shipped the same day reaching markets in the eastern U.S. the same day, or by the next morning via overnight transit.  

Click on link below for N J Peach Show

https://www.nbcnewyork.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Produce-Pete_-New-Jersey-Peaches_New-York-491709361.html

NEW JERSEY TOMATOES 08/18/18

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 The segment today was shot at Farms View Roadstand in Wayne, New Jersey, one of the last working farms in northwest New Jersey. The Kuehm family farm dates back to 1894 when the property was purchased by the first of five generations that operate the farm in Wayne New Jersey. Farms View Roadstand has evolved from a picnic table on a side lawn many years ago to this farm stand with attached greenhouses. I love doing segments at family farms to show all of you where your fresh fruits and vegetables get their start. Long days and hard work are what farming is all about. Today we are talking tomatoes, not just any tomatoes but Jersey tomatoes to my way of thinking the world’s best. From heirlooms to the beefsteaks here is some information on my favorite fruit.


A fruit--oh yes, it's a fruit--but in the United States we treat the tomato like a vegetable. Thomas Jefferson grew tomatoes at Monticello back in 1781, but they didn't really start to become popular here until after the Civil War. Now the tomato is the third most popular vegetable in the United States--after potatoes and lettuce.Once called the Peruvian apple, the tomato is a member of the nightshade family. It originated in South America, and our name for it comes from the ancient Nahuatl name tomatl. The French called it the love apple, and the Italians named it the golden apple because the first tomatoes were small yellow fruits. After the early Spanish explorers sent seeds to Naples, the Italians went crazy for tomatoes, and the rest--all the way down to pasta and pizza sauce--is history. New Jersey Tomatoes have received a great deal of notoriety as being the best in the nation for their flavor, tenderness, and juiciness. All of that's certainly true. However, it's not because of unique weather or soil conditions.  Flavor, tenderness, and juiciness, have more to do the selection of the variety, the special growing care, and how long they remain on the vine to ripen.  Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown by New Jersey gardeners  New Jersey tomatoes, planted as seedlings take 70-90 days to mature. The picking season depending on weather, can begin as early as mid-july and last until Mid October.  Sometime in the 1950's, in response to demand from the large commercial farmers and shippers, tomato scientists and breeders developed hybrids, new cultivation techniques, shipping, and storage processes that became a boom to the tomato industry in being able to grow, ship and sell tomatoes in huge volumes across the country at a sizable profit.   While the shipping of tomatoes across the country without bruising made tomatoes available to everyone in the country at an affordable price, it unfortunately resulted in the breeding of the flavor out of the commercially grown tomato.  Despite the success with some niche markets,New Jersey farmers were only able to obtain seeds from the seed companies that favored varieties that produced higher yields for large commercial growers.   Although the taste of the New Jersey grown tomato is far superior to the large commercially grown farms, many of these varieties of seeds were limited in taste and not optimum for the smaller niche farmers.  In 1968, the Ramapo Tomato was developed at Rutgers University by Dr. Bernard Pollack. This tomato was a very tasty tomato that was ideally suited for east coast soil and weather conditions. The downfall was that the Ramapo variety, although superior in taste to the other varieties on the market, had limited demand, and virtually none from the large commercial farms. As a result of the low demand, the Ramapo seed soon disappeared from seed catalogs.   However, in response to public outcry for the Ramapo tomato, in 2008, Rutgers University re introduced the Ramapo seed for commercial production for the small farm/garden market. This initial release of only 8,000 seed packets was aimed at the small, niche farms and the home gardener who were willing to take special care and cost in the growing of tomatoes to achieve the superior taste.   A really good tomato is sweet, tender, juicy, and except for the yellow varieties, a deep rich red color. When you get one of those hard tomatoes that tastes like cardboard, you've got one of the hybrids that started coming onto the market in the 1950's, when the businessmen and scientists got together and produced a tomato that could be shipped from one coasts to the other without bruising. Unfortunately, at the same time they also bred out all the flavor. A great tomato is worth looking for. And the way you handle it at home is almost as important as what you choose in the first place. The three most important rules to remember about tomatoes are: 

  1. Never refrigerate! 
  2. Never refrigerate! 
  3. Never refrigerate! 

Refrigerating kills the flavor, the nutrients, and the texture. It just kills the tomato--period.  Unless you live in a really cold climate, the best tomatoes you can buy will be at your local farm stand, when tomatoes are in season in your area. That's true for most produce, but it's doubly true for tomatoes. About half the tomatoes shipped and sold in the United States come from Florida. They are the ones you find in the store in the winter. They're hard, they're thick, they never turn red, and they have no taste. A few winter tomatoes come out of Mexico and California, as well as from Holland, Belgium, and Israel. There are also more and more hydroponic tomatoes on the market. I may be biased, but I think that in season the Jersey tomato is the best around--maybe because of the soil. The truth is any local tomato, picked ripe, is going to be good. In the summertime, in season, buy local tomatoes.   Tomatoes come in scores of different varieties, colors, and markings--striped, purple, and even white--but these are found almost exclusively in season, from local sources like farm markets or markets that carry specialty produce. Again, if you want to see a wider variety where you shop, ask for what you want and help create a customer demand.Local tomatoes depending on the local climate,are available from July through September, with the peak in late July and August
RIPENING AND STORING
Tomatoes are considered "vine ripe" by the industry if they have developed a little color "break"--that is, a small yellow or reddish patch of color on the skin or a starburst of yellow at the blossom end. If the tomato has a color break or the starburst, you'll be able to ripen it at home. Don't ripen tomatoes on the windowsill. Never put them in the sun to ripen. Just put them out on the counter, stem end up, in a relatively cool place--not right next to the stove or the dishwasher. Put on a little Frank Sinatra music if you want them to ripen fast. If you want them to ripen faster--well, you can always put on the Stones. Never, ever refrigerate--not even after the tomato is ripe. If you've got too many ripe tomatoes, make a salad or a raw tomato sauce for pasta. Or make a cooked sauce, freeze it, and you'll have something nice for the winter. 

Simple Pleasures

We have all kinds of upscale restaurants, and there is a lot of interest in complicated cuisines, but sometimes it's the really simple things that give you the most pleasure. When I was a kid, I had to help my father sell produce out of the back of his truck. At lunchtime he'd stop at some little store and buy a loaf of Italian bread. Then we'd find a place where we could pull off to the side of the road. He'd put down a piece of cardboard for a cutting board, slice the bread, cut up a tomato and an onion, and make tomato sandwiches. Sometimes when I come home from work and I'm too bushed to prepare or even eat a full meal, I'll make myself a tomato sandwich. Food brings back memories. You can sit down with the most ordinary things on your mind and eat something good and it will bring back memories - things you haven't thought about in years. Even memories that might not start out being so good seem to improve as time goes by. At the time I hated peddling fruits and vegetables out of that truck with Pop, but now I wish I had the time to pull off to the side of the road they way we did then. We don't have the luxury of slowing down - everything is geared to working and being productive. Produce, produce, produce! Wouldn't I love to be able to take my son and go sit by the side of the road and have a tomato sandwich? With the perfect ripe red tomato and good bread, there's nothing better.
Click link below for New Jersey Tomato Show
 
https://www.nbcnewyork.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Produce-Pete-Jersey-Tomatoes_New-York-491177101.html