When I saw the new Ketchup ‘n’ Fries plant in this season’s Territorial Seed Company catalog, I knew I had to plant one. I ordered one of these tomato-potato plants to try in my container garden this year. The Lycopersicum esculentum + Solanum tuberosum plant is an interesting double crop, producing red cherry tomatoes on top of the plant and white potatoes growing underground.
Ketchup ‘n’ Fries (by TomTato) is a hand-grafted plant. It has a tomato scion grafted onto a potato rootstock. The result is a plant with two all-natural crops.
This offering is new to American gardeners this year, but gardeners in the United Kingdom had the chance to grow them last year.
But what sounds like a unique horticultural innovation today is actually over a century old. In the 1890s, British gardeners had already been involved in experiments that grafted potatoes with other Solanum species, such as tomatoes and eggplants.
Gardeners in those days could read about these experiments in the top gardening publications of the times. The February 4, 1899, edition of the Gardeners’ Chronicle and New Horticulturist gave a thorough report of the Royal Horticultural Society’s January meeting, that included experiments conducted by an enterprising gardener named A. W. Sutton.
The Scientific Committee’s report included exhibits of the results of several potato, tomato, and eggplant experiments. “The meeting of the Scientific Committee at 4 p.m. was of more than usual interest,” the report stated. “Mr. A.W. Sutton gave some interesting information regarding a series of experiments that Messrs. Sutton & Sons have lately made in respect to the potato…”
The Suttons showed off the potatoes that resulted from their grafting experiments. “In 1895, a typical sample of Potato Supreme was grafted with a scion from the Egg-Plant. In this case the character of the potato has been unaffected by the graft,” according to the report.
His experiments also included grafting the scion of a tomato onto a potato, grafting the scion of a potato onto a tomato, and growing out the potatoes of a “distinct variety of Potato from Africa” sent to him by a friend.
Territorial Seed Company is offering a tomato-potato dynamic duo exclusively by mail order through its website or by phone.