Italian grows tomato-eggplant tree

Sat, 07/12/2008 - 03:18

An amateur botanist in Sicily on Friday claimed he had created the world's first 'eggplant and tomato tree' as a solution to world famine.

Surveyor Giuseppe Marino came up with the tree by grafting tissue from eggplant and tomato plants onto a devil's fig shrub - a spiny plant from central America that can grow up to five metres in height.

Marino said the shrub is resistant to disease and thrives in difficult conditions with little water, adding that his invention could be ''an answer for the G8 to the problem of world hunger''.

''The eggplant and tomato tree can by cultivated anywhere,'' said Marino.

''It only needs pruning in winter and it bears both eggplants and tomatoes from April until September or October.

''The fruits are very big, with perfect taste, colour and smell, and of a better quality than those grown in the normal way,'' he said.

Marino began his experiment by grafting various types of eggplant to the devil's fig - a well known practice among botanists - and discovered that he was receiving ''constant and abundant'' fruit from the tree.

This year he tried adding tomatoes to the tree, since - like eggplants - tomatoes belong to the same genus of plants as devil's figs.

''I have discovered a perfect symbiosis between the devil's fig - Solanum torvum - and the tomato, which is the Solanum licopersicum.

''The tomato develops on the devil's fig in an extraordinary manner, flowering luxuriously and producing fruit of exceptional dimensions,'' he added.

In the past Marino has also perfected giant watermelon plants.