A Journey to Grow a Little Food Close to Home

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tomatoes on my Potatoes?!?!

So...I woke up this morning and headed to the garden for the morning watering and I spotted something that shocked and confused me - clusters of tomato-like...things...hanging from one of the potato plants!!

My mind raced as I tried to figure out what they could be. I know that potaotes are a part of the Solanum (or nightshade) family along with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, and I know that hybrids of potatoes and tomatoes have been created in order to grow both veggies on the same plant but what could be going on here? I have regular, run-of-the-mill potatoes - not some strange variety of genetic mutant!

I knew that I needed to be careful and do my homework because of that darn nightshade family. When in doubt, I decided, Google it! It took some time and some digging but eventually I tracked down an explanation. I had seed pods!! They are rare.

Potatoes are native to the high altitudes of the Andes mountains in South America. When grown there, the potatoes are harvested, saved, and sent all over the world for sale as seed potatoes. They are typically sold in paper bags and have little sprouts emerging from the eyes. The planting proceedure is simple - slice the potato so that each sprout is separate from the others and has a chunk of the potato attached. Then plant. There are no seeds involved in potato planting - only cuttings...or so I thought.

On rare occasions, potatoes apparently form pods of true seed. This seed can be collected and can also be used to grow plants (though it may take 2 seasons to see results rather than 1 with the cuttings). How neat is this - my plants did something unusual!!

On another note, some might question the growing of potatoes in a kitchen garden given that they normally take up quite a lot of space. The trick, though, to growing this great food staple in a small space is to use a potato box. More to come on that and on seed saving.

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