Ryan Chartrand

Today marks the beginning of the Poly Plant Shop’s Tomato Mania, a two-day event where nearly 3,000 tomatoes of 57 varieties will be sold to customers from throughout the Central Coast.

“It’ll be a madhouse,” said environmental horticulture science junior Alex Lehman. “The public goes kind of crazy about it. It’s a huge deal.”

Lehman is one of four students who organized the entire event and did everything from growing the tomatoes to publicizing.

The event will be successful because the heirloom tomatoes grown on campus are sweeter and bigger than the hybrid varieties sold at a typical grocery store, he said.

The process of growing the tomatoes began in early January when the team mixed the soil to plant the seeds. The most difficult part of the growing process was transplanting the plugs into larger pots, Lehman said.

“But once that was done, we just had to fertilize the pots, sit back and watch them grow,” he said.

The most popular variety of tomato is a large, flavorful tomato called Murray Smith. This tomato only grows on the Central Coast, and was developed by Howard Brown, former dean of College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, in honor of his friend, Murray Smith.

“This is the best crop we’ve ever had,” said environmental horticulture science senior Krista Pansini.

Other varieties include the Big Beef Hybrids – an old-fashioned, colossal fruit weighing up to 1-pound and Golden Gem cherry tomato, which has a golden color with a rich, fruity bite.

Tomato Mania is one of Poly Plant Shop’s biggest events along with winter poinsettia sales.

One-gallon containers can be purchased for $5.50, or four for $20, and hanging baskets with three tomatoes and basil are $12. Check out the Poly Plant Shop’s Web site at www.polyplantshop.com for a full list of varieties offered.

Pansini is optimistic every variety will be a hit this year with the public.

“Every college student needs to try these tomatoes,” Pansini said.

The Poly Plant Shop is located in the Environmental Horticulture Science building on Via Carta Road.

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