French fries and ketchup just seem to go together, so a British seed company, Thomas & Morgan, has developed a seed that it says combines French fries and ketchup -- well, actually, potatoes and tomatoes -- in a single plant.
It sounds odd but tomatoes and potatoes are related, both being nightshades.
"It's like a science project," said Alice Doyle of SuperNaturals Grafted Vegetables, the company licensing the plant in the U.S. The process is grafting, which has been around since people started planting seeds thousands of years ago.
The plant is called "Ketchup 'n' Fries." It's made of two different nightshade plants -- the top of a cherry tomato grafted onto a white potato. Because tomatoes and potatoes are in the same family it just works.
Grafted vegetables are often superheroes: stronger, bigger, faster, more able to fend off foes than regular vegetable plants – and they deliver a more abundant harvest.
The gift of graft
Grafting is widely used to get the best quality vegetable or fruit. It's not the same thing as genetic modification, since there is no modification at the molecular level; two plants are simply joined together without any change to their basic genetic structure. If you take a tree that has resistance to soil diseases and might not give you the sweetest apple, plant breeders can take branches from trees with tastier fruit and graft them onto the hardy rootstocks.
After five years of experimenting, SuperNaturals decided to license an already successful variety of the plant that was developed for Thomas & Morgan. Starter plants will be shipped to growers throughout North America this spring.
If you are looking for a way to get your kids involved in gardening this might just be the thing.