As most of you know, I’m a seed-saver, so I plant only heirloom seeds. I normally stay away from all hybrids, especially Genetically Modified hybrids, but I just found one that I am excited to be growing in my garden this year!
The new Genetically Modified hybrid called a Venus-Tomato (Muscipula Lycopersicum) was made from genetically combining the DNA from the common Cherry Tomato (Solanum Lycopersicum) with the DNA from a Venus Flytrap (Dionaea Muscipula). Although originally spliced together in 2006 in the lab of a Swedish botanist, after 4 years of research and development, today the Venus-Tomato has been perfected and propagated, and on March 19th of this year, the USDA and the FDA both gave their stamp of approval for sale here in the United States.
The Venus Flytrap is one of 585 species of insectivorous (carnivorous) plants. Like most other plants, Venus Flytraps still require carbon dioxide and water to survive, but that’s where the similarities end. Venus Flytraps can survive in virtually any soil condition, oftentimes even without soil, sprouting up from cracks in old logs and in pavement. Most plants absorb nutrients from the soil using their roots, the Venus Flytrap instead obtains its nutrients from the carcasses of insects, using its jaw-like leaves to close around the insect, trapping it. The leaves then seal tight to form a ‘stomach’ in which digestion begins. Digestion is achieved through the release of enzymes which are secreted by glands in the inner leaf lobes. After 7-10 days the digestion cycle is complete, afterward the Venus Flytrap will open up the leaf pod, allowing the undigestible remains of the insect to drop out, and then it is ready for another unsuspecting victim to feed upon.
The common Cherry Tomato is a smaller garden variety of the tomato which is gaining in popularity around the nation amongst gardeners. The reason for its sudden increase in popularity is because the Cherry Tomato plant takes up much less space, requiring less water, and produces a lot of wonderfully flavored fruit. The Cherry Tomato, however, is not without its faults. It is very vulnerable to insect attack, and has little to no defense against the Tomato Wasp, the common Fruit Fly, and the Indigo Grub, all of which can wreak havoc on a tomato garden.
The Swedish botanist, Dr. Lars Jakobsen, decided to harness the Venus Flytrap’s natural pest-control abilities in the hopes of giving garden vegetables a pesticide-free survival advantage, and thus was ‘born’, the Venus-Tomato.
The new hybrid Venus-Tomato can not only withstand severe insect attacks, but it can also survive in less than ideal soil conditions, unlike it’s mother, the common Cherry Tomato which needs rich fertile soil. The Venus-Tomato will continually produce large amounts of lush red-pink cherry tomatoes all summer long and late into fall, producing around a bushel of fruit per plant. The insect eating properties of this plant make it ideal for any garden, helping to create a bug-free zone to help protect all of your other plants. Another beneficial quality of the Venus-Tomato is that you can plant them all around your yard, helping to mitigate mosquito populations, while also having the benefit of being able to pick fresh Cherry Tomatoes all over your backyard for a quick and healthy snack!
Venus-Tomato hybrid plants will be available this spring at most garden shops, nurseries, and even by mail order, for an average price of $4.99 per plant. One thing to remember is that since these are hybrids, the seeds will either be infertile, or they may revert back to the original parent plants if replanted, making your next year’s garden either full of Cherry Tomatoes, or Venus Flytraps, but no Venus-Tomatoes. So, as with all hybrids, this one will need to be repurchased and replanted every year that you wish to grow them.
One thing to keep in mind is that although the USDA and the FDA did certify the safety of this new species for your gardens, they have not certified the safety of the consumption of its fruit, and cannot guarantee that it is edible. So, if you plan to add these wonderful new plants to your garden this year, eat the fruit at your own risk. I for one am very excited to grow these in my garden, and if you haven’t figured it out by now, happy April Fools’ Day!
[Edit: April 2, 2010] This post was just a fun attempt at pulling an April Fools’ prank, did I get you? Just about everything in this post is make-believe; there are no such things as Venus-Tomatoes (at least not yet), Tomato Wasps or Indigo Slugs. For those who asked, the photo above is an unedited photo of a real Venus Flytrap. Now that April 1st has passed, this post has been moved from the ‘Garden’ archive to the ‘Miscellaneous’ archive. I hope to get you again next year!
P.S. A year after writing this joke article, I found that there is a variety of Cherry tomato that is called a Venus Tomato, although it’s just a regular tomato and it is NOT crossed with a Venus Flytrap. If you’re interested in growing this variety, you can buy the ‘Venus’ Orange Cherry Tomato seeds here.