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Hoboken hosts a mouth-watering festival for tomato lovers

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Catalpa Ridge Farm brought an array of fruits and vegetables to the Hoboken Historical Museum Sunday for the annual Heirloom Tomato-Tasting Festival.

HOBOKEN -- A tomato is a tomato is a tomato, except when it isn't.

More than a dozen varieties of heirloom tomatoes were on display Sunday at the annual Heirloom Tomato-Tasting Festival held at the Hoboken Historical Museum.

The fruit, as well as hundreds of herbs, heirloom peppers and potatoes, were provided by Catalpa Ridge Farm, a non-commercial establishment run by Rich and Sue Sisti on 15 acres in Wantage.

The Sistis started having the festival as a fundraiser along with the museum more than a decade ago. About 20 percent of the day's profits go to the museum, Sue Sisti said.

Heirlooms fruits and vegetables are varieties that haven't been cross-bred and are typically passed down from one gardener to another. They're usually full of flavor and have different shapes and colors.

This weekend the Sisti's brought Striped Germans, a large, sweet tasting red and yellowish tomato; Cherokee Purples, a thick juicy tomato with a dusky red skin; Carolina Golds, a bright orangish tomato and Japanese Black Trifeles, a pear-shaped fruit with a deep, red skin.

Several attendees said they have been coming for the produce each year since the event launched. Neighborhood resident Amy Scholz picked out zucchini, a few heirloom tomatoes and some apples at the festival, which she'll use to make a tomato mozzarella salad and applesauce for her children.

Mike Flood, a 20-year-old volunteer at Catalpa Ridge Farm said his favorite heirloom is the Striped Hollow -- a baseball size tomato with a hollow center. When cut open, juice doesn't burst out, making it an interesting variety that also works well stuffed with cheese. Although the farm grows this variety, Flood said there weren't enough this year to bring them to the festival.

"There used to be just one (common) type of tomato growing up," said 30-year Hoboken resident Linda Kiggens. "It's astounding how many different ones they have here."  

Though the majority of attendees Sunday voted for the bright red cherry variety called Jelly Bean as their favorite, Kiggens said she's most drawn to the larger, plumper Pineapple heirloom. She likes it for its sweetness and its bold yellow skin with red lines. 

Amanda Schallert may be reached at aschallert@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaSchallert. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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