Fullerton (California) Arboretum’s growing area overflowed with young plants during this year’s 3-day “Monster Tomato and Pepper Sale”. It also was crowded with novice gardeners and green thumbers alike, all seeking traditional varieties and some truly remarkable new specimens. Roughly divided in half, with tomatoes on one side and peppers on the other, customers plied the aisles for just the right selection for the coming summer’s bounty.
Hearty veteran pepper people discussed the merits of the 7-Pot/7-Pod pepper from Trinidad and Tobago. Rated on the Scoville Scale at over 1,300,000 units of heat, this plant eclipsed the other new selection for this year, the 7-Pot Brain Strain, at just over 1,000,000 units. The current Guinness World Records holder for hottest pepper was also available for purchase: the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T at just under 1,500,000 units. On the table was a former record holder, the Bhut Jolokia, from India, at just over the million mark. To give an idea of how hot these peppers will become, consider this: a Bell Pepper has zero Scoville units, standard Tabasco sauce has about 2,500, and U.S. Standard Grade pepper spray, used in law enforcement, comes in at 5,000,000.
Out of this year’s list of hundreds of pepper varieties for sale, were about 35 new varieties of hot peppers and nearly as many new varieties of sweet peppers. The “hots” newcomers included the Habanero-Tasmanian, Inferno Hot Banana Hybrid, and Devil Serrano. Names for the “sweets” were not quite as dynamic, and included the Candy Apple Hybrid, Chablis Hybrid, and Tangerine Dream.
Across the aisle, tomatoes were arranged by variety – Beefsteak, Cherry, Oxheart, Paste, etc. New tomato varieties this year numbered nearly 50, across all types. The projected weight of the tomatoes at harvest varied as much as the hotness scale of the peppers. Many Cherry varieties would weigh about one-half ounce (the Sprite Grape) and three quarters of an ounce (the Riesentraube Grape) up to a whopping two pounds for the Amana Orange Beefsteak. The weightiest tomato listed on the Arboretum’s guide was the Giant Belgium Beefsteak, estimated to tip the summer scale at between two and five pounds.
Boy Scouts handled parking control, volunteers provided quick answers, and the event attracted folks and families getting a jump on summer. Jaunty Red Flyer wagons were on hand to transport flats of goodies to the checkout stations. For organic gardeners, “How to Grow Organic Tomatoes at Home” was a popular workshop presented by Jonathan Davis.