Potato Tomato Plant

July 2, 2010 - Larry Wilson’s Potato Tomato Plant in Blairsville, Georgia

You never know what you’ll find at the Union County Civic Center. How about potato tomato plants? That’s right! What appeared to be potato tomato plants were recently spotted at the office of Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).

Union County Technician Patrick Fix says, “I work with farmers all the time. I have seen lots of unusual things, but never a potato tomato plant.” Patrick went on to explain that potatoes and tomatoes are in the nightshade family along with chili peppers and eggplants.

Larry Wilson lives in Hemptown (located between Union County and Fannin County) and grew the plants in his home garden. Mary Lou Wilson says, “Larry was out graveling some potatoes when he called for me to look at three potato vines with tomatoes on them. We had never seen anything like it so decided to show the plants to Patrick.”

After some digging, pertinent information was found at the Iowa State University website. According to Department of Horticulture’s Richard Jauron, “Occasionally gardeners are surprised to find small, round, green, tomato-like fruit on their potato plants. These fruit are not the result of cross-pollination with tomatoes. They are the true fruit of the potato plant. The edible tubers are actually enlarged, underground stems.”

“Normally, most potato flowers dry up and fall off the plants without setting fruit. A few flowers do produce fruit. The variety 'Yukon Gold' produces fruit more heavily than most varieties. The potato fruit are of no value to the gardener. Potato fruit, as well as the plant itself, contain relatively large amounts of solanine. Solanine is a poisonous alkaloid. The small fruit should not be eaten. Since potatoes don't come true from seed, no effort should be made to save the seed.”

The Wilson’s potatoes are grown from Kennebec seed potatoes and all the vines are producing large, normal potatoes. It just happens that a few are bearing rare poison potato fruits!