This year was my first time to encounter potato plants that have formed small green fruits. I was quite surprised when I saw them, and called my husband over to ask him if he had ever seen such a thing (the answer was no, he had not).
After a little bit of research online I found that this actually is typical for certain varieties of potato. Some places call them fruit, other places call them berries.
This is what my little fruits look like:
It is more common for the flowers to bloom, then dry up and fall to the ground, but sometimes they produce the true fruit of the potato plant, and this is what I found this year in my garden. In addition to some varieties of potato being more likely to bear fruit, it appears weather may also influence the plant. Cold nights may be one thing that triggers the bearing of fruit.
These little fruits are toxic, so don’t be tempted to taste them! They contain large amounts of the quite toxic alkaloid solanine.
If you want to save the seeds and try to grow potatoes from seed instead of the typical planting of tubers, you should be aware that the new potatoes will not have the same characteristics as the parent plant.
Each little fruit contains in the range of 300 – 500 seeds. When new potato varieties are developed, they are grown from seed, called true seed. Even if there is no cross pollination between different potato varieties, the potatoes grown from seed will produce potatoes with completely different features from the parent. This is a the reason the preferred propagation method for potatoes is cloning by replanting tubers.
When you grow from true seed you have absolutely no way of knowing what features your tubers will have, and wether they will resemble the parent plant or not.
I have not decided wether I will play around with this and try growing some experimental potatoes from true seed, but if I do, I have to start the seeds indoors because they take take such a long time to grow this way. It was recommended that in order to separate the seeds you should mash up the fruit and soak it in a glass of water., and then let it sit for up to a few days before straining the mix and gathering the seeds that will have gathered at the bottom. Once you have separated the seeds you can either plant them right away or dry them and save them for later planting.
I have not figured out yet how to determine the right time to pick the fruits if I want to save and plant seed.