Eggplants and potatoes now come packaged in the same plant
We’ve all been there: you want to plant both eggplants and potatoes, but your garden only has space for one more plant. How will you possibly prepare for your homegrown DiSanXian recipe? The answer may lie in a British farm’s “Egg & Chips” plants, which grow potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) underground and eggplants (Solanum melongena) above ground, thanks to the magic of grafting. While part of this project was just to see what was possible, this kind of farming may actually solve some problems for farmers who want to grow crops that normally struggle in certain soils.
Teaming up with tubers
The process to create this two-veggied plant is basically a refinement of the age-old practice of grafting. When one plant is likely to struggle in a certain soil, or in the case of many kinds of apples, unable to reproduce with seeds, grafting can offer plant a working set of roots. Two (or more) plants are grown independently, and when they’re the same size, are then cut at a matching angle across their stems. The stems are then clamped together, and if all goes well, will eventually start growing into each other, sharing water and nutrients. In the case of the “Egg & Chips” plant, this process remains mostly the same, with tiny samples tissue from each plant are gathered and checked for pathogens, grown in a nutrient gel, and then joined.
While the eggplant benefits from the heartier potato roots in British soil, combining these two veggies might still seems like a bit of a random combination. Part of the selection process in this case was genetics— grafting works better the more closely related the two plants are. Both eggplants and potatoes are members of the Solanaceae family, making them compatible enough to take the graft. So while the world also has tomtato plants, plants in different families won’t share a stem. So you might be out of luck if hoping for peppers and carrots on the same plot of land, at the very least we might be able to grow more veggies anywhere potatoes can stand the soil.
Source: It’s a Twofer! Eggplants and Potatoes in One Plant by Andrew Amelinckx, Modern Farmer