I was thinking about all my favorite tomato dishes and wondering if there were a way to infuse more tomato flavor into my chili, spagbol, and bloody mary. I've heard that the tomato vine contains a lot of the aromatic compounds we associate with delicious tomato flavor, but the vines themselves are not safe to eat. However, many inedible things can be used in infusions to carry the aroma only from something, such as how wormwood is made into absinthe. My goal is not to discover the next psychedelic. But can I infuse tomato vines in vodka as an additive for sauces and drinks?
This would be a really, really bad idea. The alkaloid compounds that make nightshades toxic can be toxic even at low levels, and a few of them are specifically alcohol soluble. This means that while chomping down on a tomato leaf might not hurt you, the toxins are readily extracted in alcohol, so you'd be maximizing your exposure to them by making a liqueur.
Further, most of the aromatic compounds in the tomato leaves and stems are going to be very bitter anyway, so even if this weren't dangerous, it would be of dubious culinary use.
Tomato Toxicity from WikiPedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomato#Plant_toxicity
According to Harold McGee writing in the Curious Cook column of the New York times, despite widespread belief that tomato vines are poisonous, there is little actual supporting evidence that they are in fact poisonous:
That is not to say that infusing vodka with tomato vines will taste good. In my opinion, if you want concentrated tomato flavor, use concentrated tomato (paste, or sun dried, for example). It seems highly likely that this going to be far more effective than trying to create a tomato extract from the green plant parts.
You can also take a pointer from the dish "penne a la vodka" which, while trendy, shows that some flavors are more easily carried in alcohol than in water or fat, and so having some alcohol in your recipe (from wine, vodka or whatever) can help intensify the flavor.