Jersey Tomatoes in February

I am getting better about eating things during the seasons in which they grow.

However, this generally means no fresh tomatoes in February. But I’m getting smarter – I’m looking at where things at the grocery store are coming from and I’m trying to buy fruits and veggies from New Jersey or as close as possible whenever I can. The grocery store does not make this easy, mind you, since they are fairly lax about labelling the veggies with their planet of origin.

Anyway, I was in the store today picking up last-minute stuff for the salad that goes with tonight’s dinner (cucmbers, oops; bagged salad, double oops; but I said I was trying) and there were the tomatoes, looking kind of okay.

Now, the myth of the Jersey tomato is a popular one. One that I didn’t believe at first because I’m from OHIO, for heaven’s sake. We have farms everywhere out there! Surely the tomatoes are better? Fewer people, less pollution?

Apparently not. The Jersey tomato is an amazing thing. I have heard of people who have saved seeds from their gardens in New Jersey, thinking that they could just grow them anywhere with the same result. Not so. There is something about New Jersey that makes tomatoes happy. In my own .18 acre of New Jersey, there is something that makes tomatoes VERY happy.

Last year, in my kamikaze garden, I put in 16 tomato plants. 14 of the plants actually survived the summer, and about 9 of them produced. And boy, did they produce. We got to the point where we were just chucking tomatoes directly into the compost because we couldn’t eat them anymore. This year we will have no such problems because we are gonna CAN them suckers.

My tomatoes? OMG. Oh. Em. Gee. So amazingly good. Between the clay-tastic soil, the fallout from the diesel exhaust from the trainyard a couple blocks away, and whatever the hell Johnson & Johnson is polluting the place with (they have a research & development facility about a quarter-mile from The Butterfly Ranch), my tomatoes were… indescribable. Just… whoa.

The trouble is, they don’t last. We got a few good ones at the end of July, then spent all of August and September eating tomatoes in and on every meal, including breakfast. Sure, we got sick of them, but come January, the body just cries out for some fresh tomato goodness. Here’s where the difficulty arises. Tomatoes like the sun. I have heard of the sun, but haven’t seen it lately. So I’m pretty sure there aren’t a whole lot of tomatoes ripening in the backyards of my state. Still, there they were today, on the shelf, looking all red and tomato-y. I couldn’t help it, and I bought some.

Because I knew it was a splurge, I didn’t buy those sickly pinkish styrofoam balls from Chile. Ohhh no. I don’t want to eat a tomato that is nearly as old as Jillian is because I know it will be a mealy, tasteless disappointment. I plumped for the Campari tomatoes, since they almost never disappoint. Looking at the package, I saw that they are grown hydroponically. I don’t know anything about that except that it’s a good way to grow pot. *Note to self, research just what the hell hydroponic means, just in case it involves ground-up kittens or something.

Even better? These are hydroponically grown in NEW JERSEY. Yep, that’s right. About 50 miles away, in fact. So, while they aren’t the poop-your-pants goodness of my mid-summer tomato bounty, in February? They’ll do.

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