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Flavorful Jersey Fresh Tomatoes and Peaches Now in Season

For Immediate Release: July 22, 2003


Hope Gruzlovic




Two summer favorites - Jersey Fresh tomatoes and peaches - are now in season and available at many local farm markets, Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus announced today. While early varieties of peaches also can be found in supermarkets this week, tomatoes are not expected to reach most supermarket shelves in any appreciable volume until next week.

Tomatoes are ready to eat when they are slightly soft. An extremely firm tomato is not yet fully ripe, even though it may be completely red. Never refrigerate Jersey tomatoes. This destroys the natural, vine-ripened taste. Never place them on windowsills, which are usually too hot. Store tomatoes at room temperature in a cool dark place. A sliced tomato loses its vine-ripened flavor quickly so choose tomatoes that are small enough to consume in one meal.

A mature peach is intensely fragrant, has a golden or cream undertone and yields to palm pressure. Shriveling at the stem end and excessive soft spots indicate an overripe peach. Peaches are best kept at room temperature, although refrigeration may be necessary to keep ripe peaches from spoiling. When ripe, peaches can be stored in the refrigerator for no more than five days. Never put an unripe peach in the refrigerator; it will not achieve optimum flavor, resulting in a mealy texture.

The early yellow variety Sentry is available this week, with other varieties to follow in the coming weeks. New Jersey's peach season runs through September.

Last year, New Jersey farmers harvested nearly 76 million pounds of tomatoes on 3,300 acres and 57 million pounds of peaches on 8,000 acres. To be sure you're buying Jersey tomatoes and peaches, always look for the Jersey Fresh logo at your local farm market or supermarket.

Following are recipes from Jersey Fresh Cooks, a cookbook available at local farm markets. The bruschetta recipe was submitted by Claudia Ocello of Rahway, while the peach cream pie recipe was submitted by Betty Jane Biache of Ringoes. For the location of farm markets or other information on Jersey Fresh, visit the Jersey Fresh website at www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov.

Bruschetta with Basil

2-3 large Jersey Fresh beefsteak tomatoes or 5-6 Jersey Fresh plum tomatoes, finely diced
2 Jersey Fresh cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 teaspoon Jersey Fresh oregano, chopped, or ½ teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons Jersey Fresh basil, chiffonaded*
extra virgin olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

For crostini:
1 loaf black olive Italian bread or a French baguette, sliced into ½-inch thick slices
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

For the crostini, brush each slice of the bread with the olive oil on both sides. Salt and pepper each side. Place on parchment or aluminum foil on cookie sheet or sheet pan, and bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes or until brown on bottom. Turn and continue until both sides are lightly browned and center of bread springs back when touched - do not over bake.

Mix the tomatoes, garlic, oregano and basil in a non-reactive bowl. Add in the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until all ingredients are blended. Mound some tomato mixture on each crostini. Serve immediately. Serves four to six people.

*To chiffonade basil: Stack 2-3 individual leaves of similar sizes. Roll them together from point to stem so you have a little tube. Slice the tube as if it were a loaf of bread; you will get long strands of basil. Repeat as needed.

Fresh Peach Cream Pie

1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons flour
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 Jersey Fresh egg, beaten
2 cups Jersey Fresh peaches, peeled and chopped
1 unbaked pastry shell

3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons cold butter
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons chopped almonds

Combine sour cream, flour, salt, sugar, almond extract and beaten egg. Beat 3-4 minutes on medium speed. Fold in peaches. Pour into pastry shell and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from oven. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over top of pie. Bake an additional 10 minutes. Chill and serve.