A Dangerous Game

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.

10 thoughts on “A Dangerous Game”

    1. Considering that one generally does not eat the leaves from any tomato plant, and the fact that tomato leaves are as toxic as potato leaves, there is no reason to assume that there is any danger present in eating the fruit.

  1. Yeah I seem to remember a Simpsons episode involving a tomato/tobacco cross. Hilarity ensued! I also remember hearing a while back about someone splicing the lightning bug-phosphorescent gene into a tobacco plant dna… leaving us tobacco leaves that light our house at night! … then again i may have dreamed all this in an opium haze… lol

  2. Theres proven combinations u can graft tomatoes and eggplants onto the following rootstock

    Devil plant solanum capsicoided

    Kangaroo apple

    Solanun torvum


    Theres other proven combination too

  3. So I could graft the egplant onto the potatos, and then graft tomato onto eggplant? Now, would the graft be strong enough to hold upside-down growing from the bottom of a hanging bucket come fruiting time?

  4. Any ideas on a way to test for solanine? There’s a Bitter Nightshade species that’s an aggressive, viney weed in the PNW and would be great to try grafting with potatoes or cherry tomatoes… if there was a way to test the results.

    1. I think the easiest thing to do is look through Google Scholar to find researchers that work with solanine extraction, contact them directly, and find out if they can direct you to a testing lab. I doubt you would find a commercial lab doing this but perhaps a university lab could do this.

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