’Tis the season of fresh fruits and vegetables, and New Jersey is among the top 10 producers of many favorites, according to surveys by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The rankings are based on the value of the fruits and vegetables the Garden State produced in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
The peak seasons are general estimates from Jersey Fresh, but New Jersey Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Al Murray notes that after a few years of early springs, the growing season has been a little slower to arrive in 2014. “We had the third-coldest winter in New Jersey’s recorded history,” Murray said. “Soil temperatures are warming up now but for the longest time they weren’t . . . as of this date, we’re probably 10 days to two weeks behind.”
For example, he said, last year the first blueberries in New Jersey were picked on May 30. This year, it will be mid-June at least. But he warns, should temperatures suddenly leap or plunge, that estimate could change quickly.
1. Blueberries, $80.8 million (6th in the nation)
That was 51.5 million pounds of blueberries. New Jersey’s blueberry standing has actually dropped over the past few years, Murray said, in part because of the good press the fruit has garnered about antioxidant value and other health benefits has led to other states jumping on the blueberry bandwagon. But New Jersey holds one blueberry distinction no one can take away: the first-ever cultivated blueberry was born in Burlington County’s Whitesbog, N.J. in 1916. Blueberry season can start in late June and go right through to mid-August.
2. Peaches, $39.6 million (3rd in the nation)
That’s 5,300 acres of peaches — about 30,000 tons. The regular season for peaches is July through September. Murray said the slowly increasing temperatures this spring will be a boon for peaches and other fruits from plants have been able to awaken more slowly from their dormant state instead of being “jarred awake.” The result? Peaches that will be “worth the wait.”
3. Tomatoes, $30.8 million (7th in the nation)
Ah, the famed Jersey tomato. In season from July to October (the most-active period is usually from mid-July to mid-September), New Jersey produced 56.7 million pounds of tomatoes in 2012.
4. Cranberries, $29.9 million (3rd in the nation)
Cranberry season is still a ways away, with the peak season coming in October and November, just in time for Thanksgiving. In 2012, 550,000 barrels of the tart favorite came from Garden State growers.
5. Bell peppers, $28.9 million, (4th in the nation)
Murray noted that New Jersey produces a lot of different kinds of peppers, but bell peppers in all their varieties are among the biggest crops. In 2012, the state produced 120.3 million pounds of bell peppers. They’re in season from mid-July through October.
6. Apples, $28.5 million (8th in the nation)
When it comes to apples, our neighbors New York (number 2) and Pennsylvania (number 3) have us beat, but New Jersey doesn’t do too badly at all, having reaped 34 million pounds of apples. They are in season in September and October, though early apples arrive by mid-July.
7. Sweet corn, $23.1 million, (9th in the nation)
Sweet corn, that farmstand favorite, peaks in July and August, though some late ears may be available well into September. In 2012, New Jersey harvested 7,000 acres — some 68.4 million pounds — of sweet corn.
8. Squash, $17.8 million, (6th in the nation)
The season for summer squash goes from June through September but the USDA counts winter squash in this number, and that can be in season through December. Taken together, the total came to 43.4 million pounds in 2012.
9. Cucumbers, $15.7 million (sixth in the nation)
The season for this salad favorite can start as early as June and go as late as September, with the most active period from July to mid-August. In 2012, New Jersey produced 73.1 million pounds of cucumbers.
10. Spinach, $12.7 million (3rd in the nation)
Some of New Jersey’s baby spinach is beginning to come in now, Murray said last week. The early season for spinach usually begins in mid-April, with the peak in May and June. In 2012, New Jersey spinach windfall came to 25.9 million pounds.
11. Snap beans: $3.7 million (10th in the nation)
Snap bean season starts in June and peaks in mid-August, though the late crop can keep going right to the end of the month. In 2012, New Jersey harvested 8.4 million pounds of snap beans from some 2,700 acres.