A Gardener’s Diary: It’s two plants in one

Jocelyne Sewell discovers an unusual plant that combines cherry tomatoes with potatoes

With the first column of 2015, I would like to take the opportunity to wish all of you a very happy new year. May your days be filled with good health, joy and peace and good harvest in your gardens.

The other day a friend gave me a garden page from The Vancouver Sun, titled “Do you want ketchup with your fries?” written by columnist Steve Whysall. I went on the Internet to research this plant that produces cherry tomatoes and potatoes on the same plant, and I watched a short video about it. The plant has been developed by Thompson & Morgan and according to the newspaper, it will be available in British Columbia this spring. I could not find who will be offering it for sale but for Territorial Seed in the U.S., the plant sells for around $20.

Thompson and Morgan director Paul Hansord claimed the tomatoes were tastier than most shop-bought tomatoes and said the plant had taken a decade of work.

“It has been very difficult to achieve because the tomato stem and the potato stem have to be the same thickness for the graft to work,” he said. “It is a very highly skilled operation. We have seen similar products. However, on closer inspection the potato is planted in a pot with a tomato planted in the same pot — our plant is one plant and produces no potato foliage.”

The firm said the plants last for one season and by the time the tomatoes are ready for picking, the potatoes can be dug up. It added both ends of the plant had been tested for alpha-solanine — a poison that can be produced in both crops depending on growing and storage conditions — and it had been certified as safe. A similar product, dubbed the “Potato Tom,” was launched in garden centres in New Zealand last year with great popularity.

Grafting has been used in agriculture for centuries to improve plant health and yield (fruit trees and grape vines are two familiar examples). Grafted vegetables are currently widespread in Asia and Europe among produce growers and are gaining popularity in the U.S., especially with organic farmers.

The above plant is not GMO. Both foods remain tomatoes and potatoes from the same family. They are only grafted and their DNA is not changed according to another site. The only difference being that they share a common energy source.

For me this year, growing a cherry tomato plant in a large container with a potato plant as companion will be as close as I get to this experiment. If you have a computer, Google “Ketchup and Fries plant.”

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and a member of the Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. She writes about gardening every other Wednesday.