One of the things I love about gardening is that there’s always something new to learn. I know way more now than I did 18 years ago (yikes, has it really been that long?!) when I planted my first little veggie patch in front of the house I shared with 3 girlfriends during college, but I still learn new things every day. I wonder if I’ll ever get to the point where I feel like I really know what I’m doing. I suspect it’s one of those, “the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know” sorts of situations, which, incidentally, is a lesson that I’m coming to realize applies to almost everything in this life. Enough philosophical musings for the moment, however, and on to my latest lesson from the garden.
I was out pinching back my tomatoes the other day, and realized that I had accidentally plucked one of the tiny branches from a potato plant instead. This isn’t all that surprising, considering that my potato plants have completely overgrown their bed and sprawled into the neighboring tomatoes. Also, the plants, being from the same family, are similar enough looking that a distracted gardener could easily mistake one for the other (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself). But as I was standing there comparing the two plants, I noticed something that I had never seen before. There were tomatoes on the potato plant. What?! Ok, maybe not actual tomatoes, but they sure look like clusters of little green tomatoes. So, what gives?
A quick Google search provided the answer to my mystery. They are potato fruits (or “potato berries”), although I think, logically, they should be called “pomatoes.” So, that’s what I’m going to call them. After potato plants flower, they (sometimes, although not always) produce fruit. This may have something to do with over fertilization (which I’m absolutely certain is not the case here) or weather/temperature fluctuations (more likely, since we have had a stretch of unseasonably warm weather). There seems to be a general consensus among gardeners that if these fruits do appear on your potato plants, it’s best to snip them off so that the plant doesn’t divert any energy from tuber formation in order to produce them. In fact, some people even recommend removing the flowers for the same reason. My plants have already had flowers for a couple of weeks now, so removing flowers probably wouldn’t be beneficial at this point, but I decided that the fruits – fascinating though they are – had to go. I headed out with my trusty garden scissors and proceeded to snip off every last “pomato” that I could find. Hopefully I will be rewarded with an awesome harvest of potatoes in a couple months, but we will see. I’ve already been sneaking a few “new potatoes” here and there, and let me tell you, they’re a treat that makes every bit of effort involved in homegrown potatoes well worth the effort!