In our quest to bring back that delicious sweet and tangy old time Jersey tomato flavor, we looked at the portfolio of tomato varieties that Jersey tomato farmers grew in the decades from the 1930s – 1970s. What we found was an array of tomato varieties – early season, mid and late season – some were hybrids and some were open pollinated. Many of these tomato varieties were developed in New Jersey – hence guaranteed to perform well under New Jersey’s conditions.
What may surprise some people is that not all of those delicious Jersey tomatoes were varieties for the fresh tomato market. Some of them were also processing varieties developed by the local canning industries, several of which were based in New Jersey. Ever wonder why Jersey tomatoes were “m’m, m’m good”? Campbells Soup Company (CSC) had a research facility in Riverton, NJ where tomato breeders developed varieties that would grow well in New Jersey while also adding rich flavor and color to their canned tomato juices and soups. This enabled CSC to provide their contract tomato growers with the quality tomato varieties to meet Campbell’s high standards and also perform well under New Jersey’s climatic conditions.
One of those Campbell’s old time varieties came to our attention during a collaborative research project in 2010 between Rutgers NJAES and CSC. KC-146 (also known as Campbell’s 146) was developed in Riverton, NJ by Campbell’s tomato breeder George B. Reynard and released in 1956. This variety was wilt-resistant, crack-resistant and better flavored than other processing types. KC 146 was the predominant variety grown by Campbell’s contract growers for a few years, along with another variety with good color, KC-135. But, in Campbell’s quest to continue to improve varieties, it was eventually replaced with newer varieties that had a wider range of disease resistance. Campbell’s maintained the KC-146 stock as a flavor standard. We agree, this is one tasty tomato.
Note: Even though it is a processing variety, it has incredible flavor as a fresh tomato. This variety was grown by Campbell’s growers in a number of states besides New Jersey.