Carst and Walker

TomTato plant grows both tomatoes and potatoes

Imagine: You can now create french fries and ketchup from THE SAME PLANT. This week UK and New Zealand companies have both launched viable, commercialised versions of a tomato-come-potato plants for home horticulture. Introducing the TomTato and the DoubleUp Potato Tom, single plants that produce both tomatoes and potatoes at the same time. [Click pic to enlarge]

UK horticulture company, Thompson and Morgan, has created the TomTato, and it is not the result of genetic engineering. It’s “simply” the top of a cherry tomato plant and the bottom of a white potato plant, that have been grafted together at the stem.

Tomatoes are members of the Potato family (Solanaceae) and so are naturally compatible with potatoes. The idea of grafting a tomato onto a potato to get two vegetables from the one plant is not a new idea. It simply has never been commercialised before.

Improved growing methods and better use of space has paved the way for this intriguing concept.

While it’s been possible to create such hybrids for a long time, the taste of the resulting tomatoes has apparently left much to be desired. According to the company, however, the TomTato’s fruits have a brix (sugar content) level higher than that of most supermarket tomatoes, along with “just the right level of acidity that only the tastiest tomatoes have”. The potatoes are said to be fine for boiling, mashing or roasting.

The TomTato is purchased as a grown plant (as opposed to in seed form), and lasts for one growing season. One plant can reportedly produce up to 500 tomatoes and 2 kg of potatoes. See more in the video below.

Meanwhile you can read more about the New Zealand release, the Potato Tom, here


You say potato, I say tomato

A common refrain of anti-biotechnology campaigners is that the method will create strange “Frankenfoods” that will be bizarre if not harmful. Anti-genetic modification propaganda shows syringes injecting serum into ears of corn, and who knows where that might lead. Perhaps science will generate true chimeras, with properties of multiple foods.

Take a look at this horrifying possibility, humorously called a “TomTato” that mixes tomatoes and potatoes.

Except, that actually exists—and it wasn’t produced by biotechnology. Instead, a British horticultural firm grafted potato roots onto a tomato plant. It’s a common technique—perhaps most famously, grafting saved the French wine industry in the late 1800s. So much for “Frankenfood.”

But this should remind us that despite all the furore and brouhaha over biotechnology, the method is just the most scientific in a ten thousand-year history of human manipulation of plant biology.

Those “organic heirloom tomatoes” the activists rave about didn’t exist in nature. They are productions of man, who haphazardly over decades changed them by selective breeding, grafting, and other methods. And when it comes to safety, reputable scientists agree that (just like grafting and selective breeding) there isn’t any reason to believe biotechnology is unsafe.


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