The TomTato

Not available in South Africa, however plant enthusiasts can experiment with their own creations: Aubergines and Potatoes, Tomatoes and Potatoes and who knows Physalis (Cape Gooseberry) and Potatoes? For more info log on to:

Michael Perry from Thomson & Morgan
Michael Perry from Thomson & Morgan

The TomTato

With tomatoes at one end and potatoes at the other, it looks like the product of some Frankenstein food laboratory.

But far from being the latest genetically modified monster, this horticultural wonder is entirely natural.

Called the TomTato, each plant can yield more than 500 sweet cherry tomatoes as well as a decent crop of white potatoes.

On sale: Thompson & Morgan worker Michael Perry with the TomTato plant sold by his company

It is produced using a hi-tech grafting process and was unveiled to the public yesterday before going on sale to gardeners in the UK for the first time.

The project took a lot longer to bear fruit than the plant does, however.

It began 15 years ago when Paul Hansord, horticultural director of mail order gardening company Thompson & Morgan, was on a trip to the US. He spotted a potato plant growing separately under a tomato plant and learned that it is possible to graft the two together because they belong to the same family.

His problem was how to develop the idea so the plants could be sold commercially. The stumbling block had been how to produce tiny potato plants which have stems the same thickness as seedling tomatoes, so that the two can be joined together perfectly.

But after a process of trial and error, and with the help of grafting specialists, Thompson & Morgan hit upon a method using a variety of potato that produces the right size shoot.

Careful variations in the temperature at which the tomato and potato are initially grown are also made to ensure the two plants are a perfect match before being joined together.

‘At the start, we thought it’d just be a novelty thing to do. But as the trials developed we realised what we had produced was really high yield, had fantastic flavour and could be done commercially for the first time,’ Mr Hansord said yesterday.

‘It can be planted from late April and produces trusses full of tomatoes which have a traditional tangy, sweet flavour from July to October and a good hearty crop of potatoes of a versatile variety, which can be boiled, mashed, roasted or made into chips, for late in the season.’

Mr Hansord added: ‘Each TomTato plant is specially grafted by hand to create this unique double cropping feature. There’s no genetic modification – it’s an all-natural, and safe process.’

Production begins in a specialist laboratory in Holland, where the delicate grafting process takes place. The plants are then shipped back to the UK and grown on in greenhouses until they are big enough to be sold.

The TomTato – which has been dubbed a ‘veg plot in a pot’ – can be grown inside or outside, in a large patio pot or 40-litre bag, on the allotment or in the vegetable patch, says Ipswich-based Thompson & Morgan.

It is selling the 3.5in plants from next spring for £14.99 each, or two for £29.98 plus one free, via or by phone on 0844 573 1818

Article: MailOnline 8.00am  26 April 2016