The Ketchup ‘n’ Fries plant

05/16/2017
by Morgan Lasher

You say tomato. I say potato.

We’re both right.

And they’re both a part of the same plant.

That’s right—the top portion of the Ketchup ‘n’ Fries plant, at Uncle John’s Plant Farm, was grafted to grow as many as 500 cherry tomatoes over the summer, while, beneath the soil, it can produce more than four pounds of white potatoes, suitable for mashing—or frying.

“Ketchup ‘n’ Fries is new this season and a very hot item,” says Marcia Hawkins, daughter-in-law of founder Uncle John Hawkins and co-owner of the plant farm and retail Home & Garden store. “We introduced the plant last month on TV and the phone didn’t stop ringing.”

Although grafting a tomato plant with a potato plant may sound weird, world famous horticulturist Luther Burbank wrote about the process more than 100 years ago. The plants actually are related—they both are members of the Solanaceae family.

Uncle John’s is selling Ketchup ‘n’ Fries in 12-inch pots that can be grown right on your deck or patio—or you can replant them into your garden.

Uncle John’s, which includes 10 acres of gardens, greenhouses and the retail Home & Garden Store, has become a must-visit home and garden center since John and his family purchased it in 1974. The 90-year-old greenhouses, which are among the last in Cuyahoga County, are nostalgic reminders of Northeast Ohio’s rich agricultural tradition. They grow annuals, perennials, herbs, houseplants, tropicals and flowering trees and shrubs that are distributed throughout five states, as well as for on-site retail.

Herbs that are used for cooking and home remedies are a staple at Uncle John’s. If a combination tomato and potato plant sounds magical, Marcia invites you to peruse Uncle John’s fairy garden miniatures section.

“Other stores have miniatures, but what makes us different is that we are a wholesale grower of miniature Fairy Garden plants,” she says. It’s a peaceful hobby, and mini gardens are really cute when they’re created under trees or near patios for your visual enjoyment.”

Uncle John’s carries a variety of plants and accessories that are ideal for fairy gardens.

“Any plant that is a dwarf or slow growing is ideal for fairy gardens,” she says, particularly citing Uncle John’s pink polka dot Hypoestes. “They are bright pink speckled leaves with sweet tiny flowers.”

Uncle John’s also carries a large assortment of cactus and other succulents.

“Succulents are a very popular item,” Marcia says. “They’re perfect for indoors because they can take low humidity. They are easy to care for because you only need to water them once a week or so at the most.”

What differentiates Uncle John’s from many other garden retailers is its personal service and high level of expertise, Marcia insists.

“I couldn’t ask for a better staff of people,” she says. “Some have worked with us since we opened 43 years ago. They are just a sweet group to work with. As busy as we are this time of year, if you stop them to ask a question, they’ll gladly take the time to find out what you need and answer your questions.”