It started with just a few plants and a hobby for Bob Zeni, a La Grange Park man dubbed “the tomato man” by neighbors.
Zeni, who works from home as a graphic designer, wanted something to do for fun and started growing a few plants in his basement.
“I started with a few and now have around 2,500 plants, primarily tomatoes. I grow 60 varieties but there are at least 1,000 types of tomatoes,” said Zeni, who is preparing his annual sale where he sells and gives advice on how to take care of the plants.
Zeni can also tell people which tomatoes are good for salads, which are less acidic and even describe the different flavors.
“People who are foodies want certain tomatoes for their recipes. A lot of people want Beefsteak tomatoes for the flavor,” Zeni said. “The darker tomatoes like Black Ethiopian or Black Cherry have a stronger, salty flavor and the yellow tomatoes have a tangy citrus flavor.”
Zeni starts his plants from seeds he either orders or gets from seed groups and plants them in his basement plant lab.