The Simpsons Folder

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Simpsons Folder


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Baur grafted a tomato plant onto tobacco roots, and voilĂ , he had a real, live tomacco plant. The two plants can successfully become one because they come from the same plant family, which also includes eggplant and the deadly nightshade. The tomacco even bore fruit, although Baur said he believes it’s poisonous because it likely contains a lethal amount of nicotine.

“I’ve got this one plant growing, and it’s blooming again,” Baur said. “I accidentally left the tomacco on the kitchen table, and my wife yelled at me, ‘Get that thing out of the kitchen, you knucklehead!’ Because it looks like a regular tomato.”

Earlier in the summer, Baur tried grafting a tobacco plant onto a tomato root and got a “tobato,” but when he removed the bandage from the graft it fell apart and later died.

But the tomacco grafted together well. Baur wanted to know if it was a true hybrid, so he asked a forensic researcher to test the plant’s constitution. The results showed the leaves did indeed contain nicotine. The local Fox News station, KPTV, did a segment on Baur’s accomplishment.

“He only had the one fruit, and we didn’t get a chance to test that,” said Roy Grimsbo, the forensic scientist who performed the test and director of Intermountain Forensic Laboratories in Portland. “We just tested the leaves. It had regular green fresh leaves.”

Grimsbo did the work for free and said he hopes Baur will bring back an actual tomacco fruit for testing.

The Simpsons tomacco episode struck a chord with Baur, who is an operations analyst for a municipal waste water-treatment plant. He remembered a 1959 study he had read for a graduate chemistry class at Western Washington University in Bellingham, in which researchers crossed a tomato plant with tobacco. Since his work involves chemistry, he had saved his textbooks and was able to find the 1959 study.

“I thought, ‘Aha! I bet the writer of this Simpsons show had to have seen this too,'” Baur said. “I felt a bond with that Simpsons writer.”

It turns out that George Meyers, a writer for The Simpsons at the time, got a degree in biochemistry from Harvard. However, he didn’t write the tomacco episode. It was written by Ian Maxtone-Graham, who majored in English at Brown University and has said in interviews that he’s a huge fan of Meyers. Neither could be reached for comment.

The tomacco episode also resonated with Baur because he’s not a big fan of the tobacco industry. His mother, a lifetime smoker, died of lung cancer. His father, who also smoked all his life, had one lung removed and later died of colon cancer. Baur also lost an uncle to lung cancer.

“It really showed big tobacco for what it is, and the ridiculousness of this stuff that tastes bad, but then you’re addicted to it, and the lengths people will go to get it,” he said.

In the episode, Bart Simpson says, “It’s smooth and mild — and refreshingly addictive,” when he eats tomacco. Another scene shows Ralph taking a bite of a tomacco. “Oh, daddy, this tastes like grandma!” he says.

Baur said his kids think he’s nuts, but he said he’ll have the last laugh.

“We’ll see who’s saying ‘D’oh’ when I’m on the cover of TV Guide and Scientific American the same week,” he said.