The Rutgers New Jersey Experiment Station introduced the "Rutgers" tomato in 1934 for commercial use. Since then, the original strain has undergone more breeding to develop a more disease-resistant tomato, which is called "Rutgers Improved." Rutgers tomatoes are no longer used commercially, but they are a favorite of many home gardeners. The heirloom or old-fashioned "Rutgers" tomato plants are indeterminate, but the "Rutgers Improved" tomato plants are determinate.
In the early 1930s, Rutgers plant breeder Lyman Schermerhorn worked with the Campbell Soup Co. to develop a tomato suitable for canning and juicing. The Rutgers tomato was the result of a cross between the "Marglobe" and "J.T.D." tomatoes and better for processing than many other commercial varieties. Many companies, including Campbell, Heinz and Hunt's, used "Rutgers" tomatoes in their products. The original strain of "Rutgers" tomato plants has been lost, and the seeds sold today as "Rutgers" are either derived from the original strain or another variety.
Old-fashioned or heirloom "Rutgers" tomato plants are indeterminate and grow about 6 feet tall. The flattened globe-shaped tomatoes are deep red and have a good flavor. They ripen in approximately 75 days, and each tomato weighs 5 to 10 ounces. The plants are resistant to Fusarium wilt, Alternaria stem canker and gray leaf spot.
"Improved Rutgers" tomato plants are determinate and grow about 3 feet tall. The flavorful tomatoes are dark red with a flattened globe shape. Each tomato weighs 6 to 8 ounces and ripens in approximately 72 days. The plants are resistant to Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt, Alternaria stem canker and gray leaf spot. Improved Rutgers are also labeled as Rutgers VFA.
Tomato plants typically grow in one of two growth patterns. Determinate, or bush, tomatoes grow 2 to 3 feet tall, depending on the variety. The plants have short branches with clusters of flowers growing at the tips of the stems. Within a few weeks, the flowers open and set fruit, producing ripe tomatoes during a short harvest period. This is convenient for canning, juicing or other processing methods.
Indeterminate, or vining, tomatoes continue to grow as long as conditions are suitable. The flowers grow along the stems and open at irregular intervals. This causes the fruit to set and ripen at varying times. Tomatoes on indeterminate vines are best used fresh in salads or cooked dishes.
- Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images