Located all the way in the back of the parking lot, hidden from plain view save a small but busy entrance, one might be surprised to find themselves in the midst of what appeared to be a pint-sized farmer’s market.
The main items for sale? A plethora of tomato and pepper plants that came in more shapes, sizes, and flavor profiles than one may find at the grocery store.
Fullerton College’s Horticulture Department held its annual Tomato Plant Sale on Mar. 6-8, offering more than 8,000 of their nursery-grown plants for purchasing.
Several different types of tomatoes were available from determinate varieties (tomatoes that stop growing after reaching a certain height and commonly used in cooking sauces or for canning), to indeterminate varieties (tomatoes that continuously grow and are usually used in salads and sandwiches).
The more ambitious attendees came prepared, some of them with their caddies and wheelbarrows in tow for larger hauls.
Although not certified as “organic”, the plants grown in the nursery are pesticide-free and organically grown, which affects the most important important feature of any fruit or vegetable: the flavor. Those who have had the opportunity to try one of the nursery’s tomatoes or peppers for themselves can attest to their superior flavor.
“The difference is the taste and freshness,” said four-year attendee Wendy Jimenez, who was taking a break from hunting tomatoes to cool off in the shade. “There are no pesticides, no junk or poisons put on these tomatoes. I can taste how fresh these are.”
Psychology Instructor Dr. Robert Byde, who has been coming back to the nursery’s fruit sales for five years, also sung its praises.
“These have flavor!” he said. “I plan to plant these in my own garden to use for salads and cooking, and I got the chilis to make chili rellenos.”
Those who have dedicated a helping hand in the process of either planting or cultivating the plants at our campus invest more than just their time.
“They’re like our babies, these little tomatoes,” said Polly Pon, who has been volunteering at these tomato sales for six years. “Management takes a great deal of pain to get the right fertilizer and all the right ingredients. They get sunshine, they get shade, they get stroked to grow stronger.”
And for those who aren’t fond of eating tomatoes or peppers might still find ways to incorporate them in their meals without having to eat them fresh.
“A lot of the time I think it’s the excess of tomatoes that gets people drawn back,” said Alexis Kelly, horticulture student and tomato sale volunteer. “I like to focus on marinara, ketchup, and I even make my own barbecue sauce – which a lot of the pepper goes in. When there’s an abundance of peppers, I sometimes like to dehydrate them to make chili powders.”
Fullerton College’s Horticulture Department knows that the most valuable lesson that can be taken away from planting and growing your own garden is that you reap what you sow.
The next event the department will host will be its plant sale in May.
The Horticulture Department is located at the north end of the campus bordering Berkeley.
Stephanie Gorman contributed to this story.