Potato berries are a natural part of the potato plant’s life cycle. These small, green fruits resemble cherry tomatoes and contain up to 300 true potato seeds. However, they are unsuitable for consumption as they contain the toxic alkaloid solanine.
Despite their toxicity, potato berries can be useful to gardeners and farmers. These seeds are used to produce new potato varieties.
What Are Potato Berries
Potato berries are small green fruits that resemble cherry tomatoes. Potato plants produce them after they have flowered. Each berry contains up to 300 potato seeds, although some varieties produce smaller amounts.
It is important to note that potato berries are toxic and should not be consumed. They contain the toxic alkaloid solanine, which can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea if ingested.
If you don’t eat the berries, then they are no danger to you. But they also aren’t doing any good and are taking energy from the plant that could instead be going into developing more tubers.
It is also worth noting that potato berries only form in favourable weather conditions and with sufficient pollination.
Using Potato Berries
The seeds from the potato berries can be used to grow new potato varieties. It is important to note that not all seeds from potato berries will produce viable plants.
This is because potatoes don’t grow true to seed, so if you take the seed from a Charlotte potato and grow it next year, you will not get another Charlotte plant.
What you will grow is unknown, which is why it is uncommon to grow potatoes this way.
Commercial growers will grow potatoes from seed, but this is to try and find new varieties rather than a productive crop.
Often potatoes grown from seed this way will produce poor plants.
The Toxicity of Potato Berries
Potato berries are toxic and should not be consumed. They contain high levels of the toxic alkaloid solanine, which can cause serious illness if ingested.
Solanine is found in all parts of the potato plant except for the tubers, including the leaves, stems, flowers, and berries.
The toxic effects of solanine can vary depending on the amount ingested and the individual’s sensitivity to the toxin. Symptoms of solanine poisoning can include headache, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, and even coma or death in severe cases.
Care should be taken when handling potato plants, especially if there are children or pets around, as the berries may be attractive to them.
Potato Berries and Plant Breeding
Potato berries play a significant role in genetic diversity, as they contain seeds that can be used for plant breeding.
The seeds produced by potato berries are genetically diverse, which means that they can be used to create new potato varieties that are better suited to specific growing conditions or have improved disease resistance.
Potato breeders use a process called hybridisation to create new potato varieties. This involves cross-breeding different potato plants to produce offspring with desirable traits.
The seeds produced by potato berries are often used in this process, as they can introduce new genetic material into the breeding programme.
Potato berries can be used to propagate potato plants, although this is not the most common method of potato propagation. To propagate potato plants from berries, the seeds must first be extracted from the berries and then planted in soil.
Potato seeds can take up to three weeks to germinate, and the resulting seedlings can take up to two years to produce tubers. This means that propagation from seeds is a slow and time-consuming process, and is not commonly used in commercial potato production.
In commercial potato production, potatoes are most commonly propagated using a method called vegetative propagation. T
his involves planting potato tubers, which are sections of the potato plant that have been cut and allowed to dry before planting. Vegetative propagation is a faster and more reliable method of potato propagation, and is commonly used in commercial potato production.
Common Misconceptions About Potato Berries
Potato berries are often misunderstood and surrounded by misconceptions. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about potato berries:
Misconception 1: Potato berries are safe to eat
Potato berries are not safe to eat. Although they may look similar to cherry tomatoes, they contain toxic alkaloids, including solanine, which can cause a range of symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhoea. Ingesting large amounts of solanine can even be fatal. Therefore, it is important to avoid eating potato berries.
Misconception 2: Potato berries can be used to grow new potato plants
While it is true that potato berries contain seeds that can be used to grow new potato plants, this is not the recommended method for growing potatoes.
Potato berries are less reliable than planting seed potatoes, and the resulting plants may not be true to the original variety.