These were growing in my garden recently.
Did you think they were Cherry Tomatoes?
Well, guess again. Those are actually growing on my potato plant.
Yes, they are potato fruit, which I had never before seen on a potato plant, and until I looked it up, had never heard of before.
The reason that they look like tomatoes is because potatoes and tomatoes are of the same family. HONEST.
I know. . .I was surprised too!
When I learned this my first thought was, well, of course, potato/tomato – they are spelled similarly.
My second thought was, that is just weird, because look at the two plants – they have nothing in common whatsoever. Until now.
B. Rosie Lerner at Purdue Extension explains that potatoes and tomatoes are both part of the nightshade family – latin name Solanaceae.
Nightshades include white (but not sweet) potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers, both chilies and the sweeter bell peppers. The list of edible nightshade plants also includes any spices made from peppers, like paprika, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper (although black pepper is a different plant). There are some interesting thoughts about the value or dangers of plants in this family and this site provides some interesting information.
Honestly, it is confounding, isn’t it? How can white potatoes and sweet potatoes not be related? And cayenne pepper and black pepper not related either? It’s mind boggling really.
Back to B. Rosie Lerner, whose article about potato fruit was written in 2003. In it she says that most people in Indiana have never seen these potato fruits before (like me) because they are a rare occurrence. But, “Cool temperatures during long days tend to promote fruiting in potatoes, which explains the increase in potato fruit this year.”
That certainly describes our summer, particularly the earlier part of it when the potato plants were developing rapidly.
The seeds from these potato fruits can be harvested and new potato plants started from them, but potato plants grown from seeds this way take a much longer time to develop. Lerner suggests that gardeners may find it interesting to try, as a novelty, but it is much easier to grow potatoes from tubers than from seeds. Another interesting point was made that the fruit of the potato can be very toxic to humans, especially children, because they are high in solanine. Therefore, the potato fruit should NEVER BE EATEN!
So stick to these:
and enjoy the non-toxic fruits of your labor, and your learning!