Suburban man bringing famous tomatoes to Chicago

Over the years, thousands of people have enjoyed the fruits of his labor.

"I don't want to get tomatoes from anybody but the Tomato Man," said Kelly McGinnis.

Any way you slice it, Bob Zeni is the go to guy for heirloom tomato plants.

For 25 years, he has grown plants in his La Grange Park home and an adjacent greenhouse.

His passion has grown from just a few plants to his biggest harvest yet this year: 2,200!

"My ever suffering, incredibly patient wife has tolerated this obsession for a couple decades and the shocking thing is, she has not divorced me yet," said Zeni as he was busy bagging up plants for customers.

This year he's selling 96 different varieties including the Cosmic Eclipse, Chestnut Chocolate, Dads Sunset and Mortgage Lifter.

Zeni started growing the plants after complaining to his wife that grocery store tomatoes just weren't tasty enough.

She suggested he make it his new hobby. And boy did he!


He starts in February, growing the plants under bright lights, on warm heating pads.

Then he moves the crop outside, once the weather warms.

"I enjoy the process, the challenge of the process, scaling it up, making sure they all stay alive... the plants not my customers," Zeni said jokingly.

This year he's delivering orders to Chicago's Lincoln Park and Portage Park neighborhoods.

All of his plants this year have already been claimed.

Zeni always donates several plants to the Gardeneers, which is a group that helps kids grow plants in food desert neighborhoods.

For more information visit his website.