2 The Garden State

The Leap Collection brings together a range of books and pamphlets that remind us why New Jersey is named the Garden State. Consider the following details, gleaned from the items on display.


Did you know the tomato was once considered poisonous? Many citizens of South Jersey avoided the red fruit until 1820, when Colonel Robert Gibbons Johnson of Salem County ate a tomato on the court steps to prove it was not poisonous. When he didn’t immediately die, citizens took heart and decided it was safe to grow tomatoes.

Robertson, Keith. States of the Nation: New Jersey. New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1968.

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New Jersey is one of the nation’s top producers of cranberries. The Pine Barrens provide an excellent environment for the cranberry to grow because many acres of flat land can be easily flooded with water, protecting the fruit from insects and the winter frost. Most plants die from too much water, but since the cranberry is a marsh plant, it can survive with an over abundance of water, which in fact helps to keep it alive.

For decades, the cranberry has been a vital crop for New Jersey’s economy. In 1789, the state enacted a law protect-ing the cranberry that prevented anyone from collecting the cranberry on lands that did not belong to them, from June 1st-October 10th.

Did you know Lake Fred was a cranberry bog?

The Story of New Jersey. Ed. William Starr Myers. Vol. 2. New York: Historical Publishing Co., 1945.

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New Jersey leads blueberry production in the nation, with Burlington, Ocean, and Atlantic counties producing the most blueberries in the state. Because wild blueberries are small and extremely difficult to harvest efficiently, an easily cultivated domestic variety was long hoped for by growers. Elizabeth Coleman White, whose family had grown cranberries in the Pine Barrens for generations, spent several years during the early twentieth century crossbreeding and cultivating the modern commercial blueberry. She was also instrumental in the formation of the New Jersey Cooperative Blueberry Association, which helped organize farmers to grow blueberries and sell their crop.

Smith, J. Russell. New Jersey: People, Resources, and Industries of the Garden State. Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Co., 1935.

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Seed Catalogue

Today’s backyard farmer can only dream of the price of tomatoes listed in this 1922 seed catalogue (and of all the other vegetables as well).

Stokes Standard Seeds: Market Gardeners and Florists Wholesale Catalogue 1922. Stokes Seed Farms Company, Growers. Winder-moor Farm. Moorestown, New Jersey.