The TomTato: a tomato-potato hybrid. Photograph: Thompson & Morgan
You say tomatoes, I say potatoes … but imagine you could get both crops on one plant.
Thompson & Morgan have unveiled the TomTato, a plant that produces cherry tomatoes above ground, and white potatoes below.
T&M claims a “world exclusive” in its press release, but this isn’t a GM-manufactured chimera but a time-honoured technique known as grafting that’s routinely used for growing roses and fruit trees. As this piece on Scientific American’s Brainwaves blog explains, grafting can work for all manner of plants, meaning you can create “fruit salad” trees growing lemons, oranges, kumquats and limes; or plums, apricots and peaches. Potatoes and tomatoes are both members of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), and given a sharp blade and some grafting tape you can make one of these plants for yourself – there are instructions on eHow – although it’s worth pointing out that the resulting plant may not provide the perfect combination of spud and tomato T&M are promising.
At £14.99 for one 9cm potted plant or £29.98 for three, you’re going to have to produce a hell of a lot of spuds and tomatoes to make this a worthwhile expense, but the novelty factor is considerable. If you’re the kind of grower who likes to make your allotment neighbours’ eyes pop, this is for you: and for those with very limited space, this is one way to maximise your harvest.
Even if you’re not convinced by the TomTato, grafted veg are definitely worth investigating: for instance Suttons and B&Q have been selling them since 2011. By grafting heavy-cropping varieties of tomatoes, aubergines, melons, watermelons, peppers and the like onto vigorous, disease-resistant rootstocks (of the same type, this time), it’s possible to grow better crops. The plants are expensive to buy, but it’s worth the effort if your plants are destroyed by disease every year. Alys Fowler writes about grafted tomatoes here.