October 2, 2013
Tomato Potato, Potato Tomato
Growing up on my grandparents’ farm, I spent many of my summers helping out in the gardens. I detested it. I have never had much of a green thumb and never really understood the appeal of plants and growing one’s own food when there was a grocery store not twenty minutes away. As I grew older, however, and spent fewer and fewer days helping pull weeds and pick green beans, I found myself missing those simple acts. When I moved in with some friends, we considered having a small garden for things like tomatoes and such, but had neither the space nor the time for it. Spacial limitations are an issue for many who would want to have such a garden, and that is why there is movement in the agricultural fiend to create more convenient methods of gardening.
Enter the TomTato, a hybrid plant capable of growing both tomatoes and potatoes at the same time. Created by Ipswich-based horticultural firm Thompson and Morgan, the TomTato is not a genetically modified plant, but rather something created through a process known as grafting; a technique in which tissue from one plant is inserted into another so that the two sets of plant tissue joins together, becoming a singular whole. In the case of the TomTato, the potato plant was selected to act as the root while the tomato’s stems, leaves, and of course, the fruit is used to duplicate the genes needed to replicate the new plant hybrid. This method can take a lot of time, as well as trial and error to get to work, but it has, and now we have the TomTato.
Upon learning about this strange plant, my first question was “what would it taste like?” Supposedly, according to Thompson and Morgan director Paul Hansord, both the potatoes and tomato taste just fine. In fact, they even claim that the tomatoes taste better than those commonly found in supermarkets. Either way, it was more the potato I was interested in, as I have never been a great fan of tomatoes. Even so, this is a remarkable creation of human ingenuity in manipulating nature to fulfill out needs. The two-in-one plant is said to produce its tomatoes and potatoes at a stable rate, when the tomatoes are ready to be picked, the potatoes can be dug up. In addition, as both plants are capable of producing the poison alpha-solaine, these TomTato hybrids were tested and certified as safe for human consumption.
The TomTato will likely be seen on the UK market very soon, and it likely will not be long after that we will start seeing them here in America. Whether there will be a market for such a plant remains to be seen, though it is something that Thompson and Morgan are hopeful for. Earlier attempts at grafted garden-variety plants has not had the most promising results, but they hold on to the dream that the TomTato will find a marketable niche.
Image Credit: Thompson and Morgan