Every once in awhile I become infatuated with some idea and can’t stop for looking for information on it. It usually starts when I want to find a good quote for a particular article or column that I’m writing and then ends up swallowing two or three days. Well, it happened to me again yesterday and spilled over into today. I’m currently finishing up a project with an old friend of mine from college who happens to be a political science professor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. We’re looking at certain environmental issues and the stances taken on them by both the left and the right. Anyway, I wanted to make a point about biotechnology — that point being that when we graft two plants together we often get different chemicals in the plant which we grafted onto the rootstock than we would get if the plant were growing on its own roots. This is because many chemicals can be translocated from the roots to the leaves or even the fruit. Anyway, I quickly found a number of nice scientific articles to back up my statement, but I also found some other fascinating information about, of all things, tomatoes. There are many plants related to tomatoes that tomatoes can be grafted onto. For example, every spring our plant propagation class grafts potato roots to a tomato top. Tomatoes can also be grafted onto eggplant (which is actually very useful because eggplant roots are very resistant to flooding unlike tomato roots).
While the above examples are interesting, they’re also relatively common knowledge among horticulturists. Here’s the part that’s not common knowledge (or perhaps I should say here’s the part that I didn’t know about — I’ve been known to be ignorant of things that other people consider common knowledge before). Tomatoes can be grafted onto tobacco, and, if they are, they will have nicotine translocated to their fruit — not a lot mind you. Most of the nicotine ends up in the leaves and stems of the tomato plant, but still, why couldn’t a nicotine-laden tomato be developed which could help smokers kick the habit — in a semi-healthy kind of way?
I also found that tomatoes could be grafted onto jimson weed. Big mistake there. Jimson weed develops some pretty nasty alkaloids, and they end up in the tomato fruit. So, if you eat the fruit, your done for. In fact, I found an instance where 5 people were killed because they ate tomatoes grafted onto jimson roots. I am now curious about what happens if you graft tomato onto deadly nightshade — but not curious enough to actually try it.