Grow it yourself: TomTato

Grow it yourself: TomTato

Ketchup and fries in one plant: The TomTato! Do you like to dip your fries in ketchup? With the TomTato you can produce all the necessary ingredients yourself. All in one plant. Meet vegetable-Frankenstein.

By Marco Barneveld, www.braindrain.nu

Grow it yourself: TomTato

Imagine that you’re a horticulturalist with limited land and space to grow. And imagine you are what they call an original thinker, unusually gifted in lateral thinking. Well, one day you’re minding your own business, eating your mashed potatoes with a tomato salad on the side, and you get to think... what if you could grow potatoes and tomatoes on one plant? That would give you a double crop and you could produce twice as much food on that small plot of land that you own? If this was a cartoon, a flashing light bulb would appear above your head!

You grow a huge wild beard, and start digging up the bodies of deceased tomatoes and potatoes. You build a giant machine that uses enormous amounts of electricity and you start to laugh like a maniac as you create your own vegetable-Frankenstein.

It might sound crazy, but it is not as unrealistic as it seems. Okay, we can leave out the Frankenstein scene, and actually no genetic modification is necessary either. That’s because tomatoes and potatoes are actually related to each other. They are both members of the nightshade family just like sweet peppers, chilli peppers, eggplants, tomatillos, tamarios, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, and cayenne peppers.

Grow it yourself: TomTato
Figure 1: Plant a potato plant and a tomato
plant together in the ground – they should
both be young plants (in two pots next
to each other is also possible).

Grafting

A Dutch horticulture company, Beekenkamp Plants, grafted together the top of a cherry tomato plant and the bottom of a white potato plant at the stem. And voila, the ‘TomTato’ was born. It is said to produce 500 sweet tomatoes plus a healthy crop of potatoes under the ground.

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, which only the tastiest tomatoes have’. The potatoes are said to be fine for boiling, mashing or roasting. So there you go. Not crazy at all. Pretty clever actually.

Now these two veggies come in one plant that you can buy online in the UK (www.thompson-morgan.com) and in the US (www.tmseeds.com). The plants cost about $20 each. You can also try grafting yourself, see figures 1 till 4. It’s as easy as that!

 

Grow it yourself: TomTato
Figure 2: Make an incision in a shoot on the
tomato plant and the rootstock of the
potato plant in opposing directions; the
cuts should be about 1 inch long.

Grow it yourself

When growing a TomTato, it’s best to treat it as you would a normal cherry tomato. This means planting it in good soil or growing media in a sunny and sheltered position. The tomatoes of the TomTato will grow fast. It needs to be staked and trained to support a long and prolific crop of delicious, small fruit. The potato roots will, in most cases, send up shoots from alongside the grafted shoot. Let these develop and grow under your staked tomato, as you would a normal potato but don’t mound the potatoes, as this will cover the graft.

If you really do have limited space and you only have a balcony or a terrace, you can still grow the TomTato because it will grow happily in a pot. The ideal pot size is 7-15 gallons and a good rich growing media or compost is essential. You’ll also need to water regularly, and a sunny sheltered location is essential.

 

 

Full sun

Make sure that it grows in full sunlight for the best results. The maximum sunlight will produce the greatest yield and the tastiest tomatoes. The TomTato should be sheltered from any strong or cold winds and protected from frosts. Water the plants regularly and deeply to encourage good root structure to support the plant in its double harvest.

The TomTato is very happy growing in garden soil and it will do best in fertile, free-draining soil with plenty of compost and organic matter. The soil pH should be between 5 and 6. Both tomatoes and potatoes need a lot of feeding, so make sure you fertilize it when you plant it and again after about three months.

Grow it yourself: TomTato
Figure 3: Slide the stem and the rootstock together. If you keep the two plants together using wire or sticky tape, after about a week you can remove the upper part of the potato plant, and the under part of the tomato plant.

Harvesting

TomTato plants can sometimes produce potato foliage from the base of the plants, and this may grow through the tomato foliage. It can be removed by pinching out to ground level without affecting the potato harvest. If, however, you leave this foliage to grow through the tomato foliage, any potato flowers should be removed.

Top up the compost in containers every so often to prevent potatoes near the soil surface from becoming green and inedible. The tomatoes can be harvested as they ripen between July and October. To help ripen the green tomatoes, harvest the red tomatoes regularly. If you are growing your TomTato in containers, they can be moved to a frost-free position in the autumn for a prolonged crop of tomatoes. Once the tomatoes have finished cropping, cut back the plants and harvest the potatoes below.

Grow it yourself: TomTato
Figure 4: Now your Tomtato plant has been created.

Taste bombs

Tomatoes are packed with antioxidants, which is what gives them their red coloring. Cooking tomatoes releases these antioxidants so that they are easier for our bodies to absorb. They are loaded with vitamins C, B6 and A, as well as calcium and potassium. Eating tomatoes actually protects your skin against the sun from within. You could call them tasty health bombs!

Potatoes, meanwhile, are also packed with vitamins and minerals. They are very high in vitamin C with good levels of B6, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. They are also full of fibers and contain more potassium than bananas.

Recipe: Patatas Bravas (Angry Potatoes)

Grow it yourself: TomTato

So now that you have your tomatoes and potatoes, what are you going to make with them? You have already tried ketchup and fries so how about something more original. The Spanish have a great little dish called patatas bravas. You will need the vegetables that you have grown on your TomTato plant along with some garlic, hot peppers (to taste), a chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Oh, and white wine!

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Put the potatoes in a baking tray or casserole dish with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and salt well. arrange them in one layer and roast them until they are brown, for about 50 minutes. While the potatoes are roasting, make the sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium pot set over medium-high heat.

Sauté the chopped onions and hot peppers, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes. add the garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes. add the white wine to the pan and turn the heat up to high. cook the sauce on a high heat until the wine has reduced by half, then add the tomato paste and stir in. add the crushed tomatoes. Stir well and reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Let the sauce continue to cook slowly while the potatoes roast. If you want, you can use a blender or an immersion blender to purée the sauce until smooth.

When the potatoes are well-browned, toss them with the tomato sauce and return them to the casserole pan. continue to roast until the tomato sauce begins to caramelize on the potatoes.

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