A tomato breeding team from Rutgers University-New Brunswick has created a brand new, unique and flavorful bi-color grape tomato that's available to New Jersey residents.

It's called The Scarlet Sunrise, a new version of the grape tomato, said Rutgers plant biology professor Thomas Orton. It combines an heirloom type color that was blush, yellow and pink with the flavor that can be found in a red grape tomato.

He said the Scarlet Sunrise sort of looks like a peach does as it's beginning to ripen. A peach has a reddish-yellow-blush color to it as it begins to ripen from light green. The fruit of this particular grape tomato cultivar looks just like that. No other grape tomato has this color, Orton said.

The Scarlet Sunrise tomato. Photo Credit: Rutgers NJ Agricultural Experiment Station

The specific targets that the team at Rutgers has is to breed tomatoes that seek to bring back the flavors that previous generations of New Jerseyans were familiar with when they ate fresh tomatoes, said Orton.

"We specifically bred this new release for high flavor at every step. We selected it for the presence of high levels of sugar and moderate level of acidity. That's what New Jersey consumers seem to prefer," he said.

Unlike a commercial breeding program, this Rutgers team puts a high premium on the flavor of the new cultivar, he added.

Gardeners will love the Scarlet Sunrise for several reasons. The cultivar can be planted and will yield fruits for two to three months. The plants are quite tolerant of New Jersey weather and climate conditions. The fruits are resistant to cracking as a consequence of rain.

Orton said Rutgers tomato breeders are working to make improvements to what's already been released and to make it so these cultivars can be produced by commercial growers. So far they've produced cultivars that are for home garden use only. Now, they want to make them so New Jersey growers can grow them for business.

In 2016, Rutgers introduced the Rutgers 250 tomato. It now offers four varieties of tomatoes, each with distinctive qualities.

The Scarlet Sunrise tomato. Photo Credit: Rutgers NJ Agricultural Experiment Station

The Scarlet Sunrise seeds are available for purchase at www.breeding.rutgers.edu/scarlet-sunrise-bicolor-grape-tomato/. The cost is $4 for a packet of about 30 seeds.

Orton suggests sowing seeds in a peat-based potting soil no later than the end of April. Then transfer the plants at three or four inches tall to the garden. Space the plants about 2 feet apart and then stake them because the plants are vines that cannot support themselves on their stems. Make sure the plants are watered well and have full sunlight.

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