Don’t ask me to pronounce it and don’t ask me to touch it, but I’ll tell you what a unique plant it is and that it has tasty fruit. The first time I saw Solanum quitoense (Naranjilla) was last September at the amazing Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, ME in their Burpee Kitchen Garden. It was in a pot with other fascinating, prehistoric-looking plants. I thought it was one of the coolest plants I had ever seen.
I bought my Solanum quitoense plant from the Unusual Tropical and Annuals Sale at The Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College in the spring. I potted it up in a big, blue pot and put it in a semi-shady spot in the kitchen garden.
It was in either a three or six inch pot when I bought it and it obviously was happy in my big, blue pot and grew and grew. It is a dangerous-looking plant with large, purple spikes running along the veins of every one of the large leaves. Not the kind of plant to be triffled with.
The stems are even more scary-looking because they are literally covered in thorns. The flower buds and flowers are soft and fuzzy, though, and even the leaves themselves are delicate and somewhat soft to the touch. This is certainly a plant of contrasts.
From what I was reading, it is fairly common to have issues getting your Solanum quitoense to fruit. One thing I read said it can take six months. No problems like that here, mine has had fruit almost all season. The un-ripe fruit is green and covered in fuzzy little hairs.
Once the fruit ripens it turns a bright and cheery yellow color. Be careful trying to pick it, though, because you might get stabbed by all of the thorns around it!
I have to admit I was a bit nervous sampling the fruit from such a strange and threatening plant. However, I read that the juice from this unique and rare fruit from the Andes is considered “Nectar of the Gods.” Who can resist that???
To eat it, you wash off any leftover fuzzy hairs, cut it into sections and suck out the insides (or squeeze them out). You don’t eat the thick, tough skin.
It has been described as tasting “sweet and sour,” or like “citrus,” “kiwi,” or a cross between “rhubard and lime,” or “pineapple and lemon.” I personally would describe it as being a somewhat tart combination of kiwi and lemon. Very intriguing.
According to Annie’s Annuals, a plant can bear fruit for four years. It is a frost-tender plant, so I decided it was too cool and unusual to let it get killed off by frost and moved the whole pot into the greenhouse. That’s something my physical therapist probably wouldn’t have approved of considering how big it is, but to me it’s worth it for such a stand-out garden specimen. It’s a definite keeper.