Tomato. Potato. They even sound alike.
Because tomatoes and potatoes are members of the same plant family, gardeners have long talked about combining them into hybrid plants. Now it’s a reality: You can buy a “TomTato” plant from British seed company Thompson & Morgan … and a “Potato Tom” from New Zealand’s Incredible Edibles nursery.
Instead of using genetic modification, the two companies created hybrid plants by grafting, or physically attaching, two separate plants to one another. You buy the hybrid plant, put it in the ground or a pot in the spring, and start harvesting its cherry tomatoes starting in mid-summer. When the tomatoes stop growing, you can dig up the roots and harvest white potatoes.
If you save seeds from these hybrids and grow them the next year, you’ll just get regular cherry tomato plants. The hybrid effect only works on the grafted plant.
You couldn’t graft together a carrot-orange tree, or a pineapple-banana tree, because plants in different families cannot be grafted successfully. The TomTato is possible because the tomato and potato are both in the nightshade or Solanaceae family. That family also includes eggplants, peppers, tobacco, and the poisonous nightshade, jimsonweed and datura plants.
Thompson & Morgan says it has been working on this breakthrough plant for 15 years. As the company’s Paul Hansord explained to Modern Farmer magazine, “It’s very important not to have any viruses; both plants are susceptible. You also need to make sure the tomato and potato stems are the exact same width. And we were also looking for varieties with good yields, good flavor.”
The company claims you can pull as many as 500 very sweet cherry tomatoes off one plant and then harvest up to four pounds of potatoes a few weeks later.