Here’s something I haven’t seen before in my, uh, six years of growing potatoes: green, tomato-like, walnut-sized potato fruit. Bob hadn’t seen ’em either, in 40 plus years of farming. I hit the web for education.
These are genuine fruit, but not that common. Usually, potato flowers just drop off. When fruit do form, they’re more likely found on certain varieties, like Yukon Gold. This year, there were fruit on just about every Chieftain plant, here and there on the Kennebec, and none that I noticed on the Yukon Gold…
Each fruit contains 300-500 seeds that don’t come true: planting them doesn’t result in the same potatoes as the parent plant, there’s lots of genetic variation. Potato breeders plant out thousands of seeds, check out the results, then keep replanting the most desirable potatoes for many years or so to get new commercial varieties—apparently, this is the way new potatoes are bred.
Meanwhile, it apparently only takes only two seasons and one generation to breed genetically stable new potatoes, so for the small farm or home garden, as opposed to the big potato breeder, this seems like a viable way to go. Harvest seed one season—you can hand-pollinate to cross two varieties—plant out the next and select your favorites. Those tubers should be stable and ready to go, you just have to build up a quantity, which takes another season, unless you need hardly any at all!
And, the fruit are poisonous, rich in solanine, not for eating (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and tobacco are all members of the “deadly nightshade” family, all prone to having toxic parts). Interesting! Since they suddenly appeared this year on two varieties, I’d guess it was about the weather!
Since this is such a popular post, being dug up over and over via Google, I’ve started to update the article as I discover more. I’m not marking the changes. This is unusual. In general, I don’t edit old blog posts, and clearly mark the updates when I do!
155 thoughts on “Potato fruit”
I just discovered a fruit on my potato plants in my kitchen garden too. This is the first time I ever seen that. Especially in Dehradun, India. Will try and save the seeds to plant the next year. Has any found this in Indian potatoes?
Wow thank you all for the great information. This is only my second year growing potatos and I had never heard of them fruiting until I just found some while watering. “what the. . .” says I and off to the internet to find out. May try saving the seed. Mine are banana fingerlings from an organic catalogue. Worth trying but I find that I am a poor parent and sometimes forget my young so they may end up as so much dust in my work shed.
This is my 3rd year of growing potatoes, but my first to find potato fruits. These are on my early Wilja potatoes – one of the plants looked a bit sad compared to the others so decided to dig it up first and found only 3 largish potatoes, but also 3 fruit – guess the fruit stopped the gowth! May try growing from seed if I can remember to save it and look after it properly.
Remember after the potato plant dies down, pick the fruit wait a few days, and then press out the seeds of the fruit on white dish, you can see the brownish seeds. Let them air dry in a dry, cool, dark place. Once dried, then pick off the seeds and store in an envelope in a cool dark place. label them and plant outside next year. The potatoes you get may be a of one of the parents, but will not be the original fruit. I am on my third year planting out from seeds of my Blue Victor. Last years potoatoes were red and white skinned mix, from the original dark purple. Can hardly wait to see what they will be this year.
Last year 2010, Ihad some potato plants that had seed. This year I have some plants that have flowers and I will try to save some of the seed to grow and see what happens.
I’m getting lots of fruit this year from Adirondack Blues in New Jersey. Wet Spring; pretty normal temperatures.
I heard a lecture a few years ago about solanine-containing crops, given by a USDA researcher who was trying to minimize the risks. Yeah, green tomatoes are poisonous. Presumably the varieties used for frying aren’t so bad. Also, as they get decently big the solanine levels are dropping. For that matter, I’ve made green tomato pie (like apple pie, but the tomatoes have no pectin). The interesting thing is that solanine binds to cholesterol, neutralizing both. Wikipedia says that about 2.5 times the dose of solanine that just produces symptoms can kill, so trying a little more at a time until symptoms occur is unreasonably dangerous (atropine, with its awful reputation, gives a wider margin).
I have just dicovered our potato plants have these same little fruits on them this year. I had never seen that before. So I hit the web too. So thanks to this site, I now know what they are. Thanks. I also suspected it was the weather as we’ve had a strange year with the weather here in England.
Ive never seen that in the few years ive been growing potatoes. Very interesting
this also happened to me this year strange than fiction,
So those of you who plant the seeds did you get tubbers? Were they any good or edible?
Oh yes, you get tuber potatoes, the exciting thing is they are not the same thing from the parent. The parent plant is generally a cross of two types. You may get one of the parents or a slightly different mix of parently lineage going on. I have the third generation in the ground of the Blue Victor, I cannot wait to see what we get.
This year I planted Blue Russian for the first time and they too have produced fruit balls, very interesting year. Of course we also have a large potato bug outbreak this year, picking them off twice a day.
Thanks to all that have posted ~ great info~ I have some fruit on my potatoes~ and tried harvesting~ no seeds inside. I hope if I give them time they will mature. So I am guessing when to harvest the seed. Can I plant the true seed next season and harvest the tubers for eating, or do I need to plant the first tubers from true seed the following year?
Leave the fruit on your potatoes as they go down, even harvest after the stocks have died. The fruit I have this year is small, not like last year which were big, and I suspect its because of the lack of rain here and hot weather.
If you do get seed this year, dry them out and plant then in small peat pots to get going, and transplant them into the ground, or try planting the seed directly.
You can eat the tubers from the 1st year of growth. Keep some seed potatoes from this lot and plant out next year, and see how they change. It is a fascinating experiment.
hi im new on this my 8 year old is an avid gardener and has this year grown his first crop of potatoes maris piper i think, and after the flowers came the little green balls which thanks to you guys i now know are seeds!!! have told him what ive found on here and he cant wait to try to grow them. we live in nottinghamshire uk . he normally sticks to varietys of beans cabbage pumpkins and brussel sprouts tomatos! thanks for all the info will have a look again for other planting/growing tips
i just wounded can you eat the potatos you grow from the seeds
That potato fruit sure does look WEIRD. This is my first time to see this kind of fruit. Weird looking one though. Does it taste good despite its looks?
potatoes are good
Yes for sure you can, they are ok to eat, its just the lineage that is
@prominence DON’T eat the fruit; it’s poisonous.
@williambiggs31297 It’s fine to eat the tubers grown from the seeds; they’re just the same as other potatoes. You can also keep (some of) them as seed potatoes for next year.
Hi, I have for the 1st time in my life (I’m 58) grown potatoes, they have produced many green balls which I now know (thanks to you) that they are seeds. Please can someone advise me on how to preserve the seeds and when and how to plant them out. I really am a novice. I live in the South West Of Birmingham UK
This is the first time I have ever seen and or had in my garden in 30 years. Just goes to show we’re never too old to learn something new.
They are not on all my potato plants just a few. I planted different varieties…seem to only on the russet kind.
I got em too!…………….in Powell River in BC.
No wonder their are still comments being made on this topic, it is truly odd. Got some on my potato plants and was searching for some info on what in the world they were. Thanks for the education.
This potato fruit is weird-looking. I wonder though if this one is edible. If ever if its edible, can we use it in dishes? Instead of using normal potatoes, use this one instead? I’m kind of curious if this works as well.
Definitely not edible Rabbits, all green parts of the potato plant are poisonous. It is quite common for us to get these potato fruits in certain varieties here in Southern Tasmania.
Should I make that we get rid of all these fruit when we dig up our potatoes as we don’t want them to grow into new potatoes.
Why not? It is an experiment to see the parent potato from the seed. Its potato growth at its rawest form, from the seed.
Well that’s fine but will be growing cabbages next year in that part and don’t really want potatoes coming up.
wow, i’m amazed to find all this info, i thought at first that they were tiny spuds had come to the surface as i’d not earthed up enough, (as they came up having been left in the soil by accident from last years crop.) then today i noticed they were next to the flowers, rather than from under the soil.
i’ll keep a few to see how they go on next spring!
We just discovered our little green fruits on our one (volunteer) potato plant. I don’t even
know what type it is, I have been waiting to dig up the potatoes. I thought that it smelled like a kiwi fruit somewhat. My husband tasted it (just a tiny bit) so now I am glad to get the info on the poisonous fruit!
we found the fruit on potatoes in a field and a bunch of people were tasting and licking them i licked the fruit to!!! WILL ANYTHING HAPPEN TO ANYONE OF US!!!!!!!!
P.S. they taste like kiwi!!!
Don’t eat them, they are very bitter. Licking them will not give you any taste.. You can squeeze out the seeds after they are ripe, on a plate, let them dry, and plant them next year.
I harvested my 3rd generation of Blue Victor potato from the seed, and they are still a vey light purple, so they seem to be keeping one of the parents traits, harvest not too bad either, size med to large with smaller ones .
I have had potatoe fruit 2 years running in my small garden in Fleet, Hampshire, UK. I’d previously planted shop bought Desiree potatoes that had ‘eyes and shoots’. I’ve just separated the seeds too and will now take the advice of drying them out and planting next March.
Our first year gardening in Taos, NM and planted many kinds of potatoes, noticing these green fruits that look similar to green cherry tomatoes. These were on just about every kind of potato, however, maybe not on each plant: Red Rose, Yukon Gold, Banana Fingerling and some kind of Red Fingerling …and Blue Potatoes! I was wondering if our elevation, 7,200 ft. had anything to do with their appearance? I collected a few when I first noticed them but they seemed to disappear but when digging up potatoes noticed a lot of these seed pods on top of soil under the plants. I collected most of the fruits. Interesting that the fruits from the Blue Potatoes were also dark blue instead of bright green like the other fruits.
Now that I know they are seed pods, will save seeds and plant next spring. Glad to find this info and solve the mystery of the potato fruit.
Thanks for article. I’ve had what looks like a potato plant grow from a pile of compost in my yard; when small green fruit appeared a week ago I started to doubt it was a potato plant after all.
Was strolling in my garden on May 13th, 2012 at about 12:54 PM (Mother’s Day) when I came across some attactive flowers on top of my Potato plants at about lat/lon 36.120615/-96.144974 neare the end of a long row I planted in early spring. They were red potatoes. If you have never planted potatos, I recommend the experience.
I recall planting potatoes many years ago but, I was much younger and did not take the time to observe the things that make a garden much more colorful and interesting. In my retirement I have learned to stop and observe the many details that make a garden more interesting. I searched for “Potato Flowers” on Google and “behold!!!” there they were, identical flowers that i had seen on thos red potato plat green leaf tops.
Oh the joy of discovering the many details of nature!
Be sure to show the location of your discoveries in your comments or blog posts. I personally like the latitude & longitude in decimal degrees that you can find using Google Earth. Let me know if you need help with that and find me at by searching for gbreisch with Google.
I planted some Yukon golds in these potato bags you buy from Walmart, similar to the topsy turvy, only this container sits on the ground. I have never planted potatoes before. One day my husband walked by and asked me what they were, I had no idea until I found this blog.
Two little containers side by side are cover with these fruits, Now I am really excited for next year!! When should I start them in peat pods next year?
a happy Debra in central Alabama!!!!
You need to get the seeds out of the little fruit ball first and dry them. Squeeze them out on a white plate(easier to see if there are any issues) and plant direct in the ground after your last frost. Remember though that if the potato has been modified (gm ) in anyway, the seed may be sterile. If not then the potato, may look different than the original potato you grew. Always good to take a picture of the plant, potato, and the seed. Once grown, they are ok to eat,as a potato. Just do not eat the fruit as is, since it can be poisonous.
OK, I planted some of last years tps in green house this March. The plants that came up look like a succulent….? I just planted them outside and now we will see what happens. What does everyone elses plant look like evolving from true potato seed?
We had these in our potatos this year could not find out what they where thanks for this post
HAD 1 POISON POTATO FRUIT ON A RED PONTIAC POTATO PLANT OUT OF TWO ROLLS !!!
My wife noticed this wonderful fruit on her 50th birthday yesterday, for the first time.
I was excited!
Here I go again. Two years ago I had potato fruit on my Desiree main crop potatoes. I gathered the seeds and then germinated them the next year (see blogs above). Unfortunately they were sickly weak plants and didn’t survive. This year I have yet again got flowers which I expect will give me seeds. These are on earlies (which I like more anyway) so I’ll try again. GBreisch asked us all for the lat and lon so 51-29’01.45N and 0-21’00.91W or to put it another way, next time you are landing at Heathrow (from the East 90% of the time) look out of the window on the starboard side two minutes before landing and you should be able to see the plant in question.
hi all from the oregon coast. this is the first year i have had the fruit but this is a very wet year. i am interested in planting the seeds next year, starting them in the green house. is there a drying process for them. how do i know when to pick them. thanks for any help.
This was my first season to every try growing potato and I too had some potato fruit grow from my blue tomato…it was so wierd. I am glad that I found this blog because I might have tried to either bury it to see what it does or try to cook it. It is wiered though, the fruit are bigger than the potatoes (the latter are not ready for harvest yet, but I had to check when I saw the fruit).
Here in Southern Maryland, we had them on my Granddad’s potatoes plants this year. I read what they were and cut one open to see and smell the insides, definitely not going to eat it though, but this is the first year that I’ve ever them on potato plants.
Here in North West London, UK, I am seeing just this this year, 2012.
The only thing we can say this year is this: we’ve had more rain than ever before! The plants are far huger than ever before. And I created my own in situ composting factory in between the rows to help them on their way in the cool, damp spring we had.
My evolutionary theory would be this: they are the back-up means of propagating potatoes, to cater for when the soil runs out of nutrients, the location gets poisoned or the plant is so full of abundance that it can afford to produce them.
I have them too. What worries me is that my dalmatian, one year old, has been playing with them, may have even eaten a little! Scary now I know they are poisonous. Thanks for the update.
Some taters in storage were sprouting & starting to rot, so in late May divided off and planted the eyes. It has been cool and wet here in the Pacific Northwest this Spring & into summer, and the potato plants expoded out of the ground, producing the most beautiful little white flowers and now the little green fruit… never saw these before, and so searched and found your blog. Thanks for sharing – this is so interesting. I’ll try planting the seeds next season and see what happens.