French Fry Plant, held by AJ Simon

The Coleman AgriScience students have been able to achieve the unthinkable. A French fry plant currently resides in our greenhouse, overflowing with a generous bounty of hot, salty French fries, with a side of fresh tomato ketchup!

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. Lovingly dubbed a “Frankenplant” by Mr. Fischer, the French fry plant the AgriScience class has been tending to since February is simply a creative combination of a tomato plant and a potato plant. 

I interviewed AJ Simon, a Junior in the AgriScience program, to find out a little bit more about how a mad scientist experiment like this is possible.

AJ explained that their class used a gardening method called “grafting.” This process allows us to combine the living tissue of two different plants together, leading to a unique fusion. In this case, the AgriScience class cut off the top of a tomato plant, cut into one of their homegrown potatoes, placed rooting hormone on both cut ends (which encourages roots to grow), then directly taped the wounded areas together. After a while, the plants began to fuse together and become strong. AJ clarified that the reason this works is that potatoes and tomatoes are similar genetically, both being part of the Nightshade family.

The AgriScience class has experimented with different combinations of potatoes and tomatoes to find the perfect pair. AJ pointed out that it was a strategic decision to use red potatoes for this particular fusion. Red potatoes are small and will use up less energy from the overall plant than other, larger potatoes. This helps the tomatoes to grow strong and keeps the plant in balance.

The French fry plant is likely to become a permanent fixture in the AgriScience program. They will continue to practice this technique, in hopes of mastering the art of the French fry plant one day. AJ says that they currently don’t have plans to grow a different type of “Frankenplant,” but he would be interested in exploring other options. What kind of crazy combination would you like to see them try?

Maybe, with any luck, we will see cheeseburger plants sprouting up next year!