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Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Solanum Quitoense, My Favorite Plant This Week


Loree at Danger Garden has been posting weekly for a while about her favorite plant and has invited other bloggers to join in this meme.  Today the plant that is thrilling me and my non gardening partner is  Solanum quitoense.  The  Solanaceae family is large and includes both edible and poisonous members.  Solanum quitoense has gorgeous purple veined furry leaves that  can reach a foot or more in length.  They look cute as a teddy bear but have prickles that are  cleverly hidden on the undersides of the leaves. Solanum quitoense, known as naranjilla (little orange) in Ecuador and Panama and as lulo in Colombia, is a subtropical perennial plant from northwestern South America. The specific name for this species of nightshade means "from Quito."



Love the purple fur!  Those little round things are flower buds.


The huge leaves are  quite lovely.

I've grown this plant for years and have often had it flower but last summer, for the first time, it decided to produce fruit.

You may remember these images from a post back then.


The first time I grew this plant, I got it as a tiny thing growing in a six inch pot on a  windowsill at a house where an estate sale was happening about 20 years ago. I think they charged me a dollar for it.  It looked pretty sad but it was a plant mystery that I wanted to solve so I brought it home, potted it up and let it spend the summer outside.  It grew very quickly through several repottings  into a 4 foot beauty!  since that time I've nearly always had one.





And later as the fruit decided not to abort but began to grow larger.

The plant, hardy in zones 9 - 12 lives inside my house in the winter.  Look what happened to the  fruits!
 
Learn more about the plant here and here and  about the edible fruit here.


The fruit supposedly has a citrus flavor that is described as a cross between lime and rhubarb.  The juice of this orange fruit is green.  The fruit can be eaten out of hand (the furry outer part is discarded) and the juice is a popular drink in parts of South America.

The plant, not taller than I, recently got moved back outside for the summer but I don't want to cut it back as usual because of the cool orange fruit.  Because it was in an out of the way room for the winter, the non gardening partner didn't notice the fruits until I moved it outside and he passed it on his way into the house.  While it's got ripening fruit on it,  it's still producing buds to make more.  How sweet is that? 
 
Just in case I decide not to schlep the huge plant into the house and up a flight of stairs, there's a smaller one waiting in the wings.  I don't know if I have the heart to leave the big one outside this winter now that it's produced fruit for me. 
 
They grow easily from seed and plants  are available seasonally at Cistus Nursery, Annie's Annuals, and others. 

21 comments:

  1. When I saw the picture of all those leaves at the top of your post I was thinking that was the little one you bought at Cistus when we visited, and I was prepared to be very jealous, because mine is still really small. But Phew! It's one you've had for a while and over-wintered. I hope mine gets big too. It's a cool plant.

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    1. They don't like the 4" pots much and will grow faster if you put them in a 2 gallon pot.

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  2. And I just happen to be visiting Cistus today...

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  3. Oh those leaves! So have you/will you try the fruit?

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    1. I'm very tempted. All winter I didn't use anything on the plant even though there was an awful pest infestation that left sticky syrup all over the place just so that I could try the fruit. Maybe I should but it's so pretty on the plant.

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  4. Now those ARE unusual! The only edible fruit growing on our property are mulberries - and those on a tree that we "accidentally" planted :)

    By the way - THANKS for identifying my weed/plant. Actually, I remember that I DID plant feverfew. Intentionally. I just can't remember why!

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    1. It's always fun to have unusual plants for guests to look at in amazement- kind of like how I feel at places like Far Reaches Farm or Cistus - wide eyed and excited.

      Feverfew is used to make tea & reportedly helps some people with migraines.

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  5. Oh, you must surely at least taste one of those fruits. First I would make doubly sure they are edible. Is this not a member of the deadly nightshade family?

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    1. You're right, I should try at least one to say that I did it. They are members of the deadly nightshade family but of course it's edilbeb. Hear at the Outlaw Gardne we never make misteaks!

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  6. My older son lived in Ecuador for six months and enjoyed this fruit and its juice. Had no idea it would grow in the US.

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    1. It would love your warm summers but would have to spend the winter inside with you.

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  7. Never grown it although I've seen it around a lot. So cool that it produced fruit for you.

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    1. The fruit is such a nice bright orange color!

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  8. The fruits are wonderful, but I also like those typical Solanaceae flowers: they could almost be on an eggplant! Come to think of it, I always love the purpley foliage of eggplants in the garden: maybe this could be my fuzzy, year-round replacement.

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    1. Tis is a lot like a big furry eggplant! As long as you don't mind lugging it in for the winter or treating it as an annual, it's a way cool plant.

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  9. Ohh, I love furry plants!!!!!! love it!!! now I want one!

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  10. I liive in australia and am growing one in a pot in the shade. It is now fruiting and cannot wait until I can try on. Please hurry up and fall off little fruit.

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  11. Amazing, thanks for sharing this! I am really curious to what tips you have for the plant. So take it inside in winter. Then do you need to keep it relatively dry, or wet? What else?
    I also heard it only starts to produce fruits from the second year up, is that true?

    I planted a few seeds and lost hope after three weeks, but now they're all coming up like crazy! I have aprox. 20 plants now. :p

    I can't wait to have some fruits growing. It is one of my favorite juices, I drank tones of it when I was in Colombia. Just cut it in half, scoop out the inside. Blend it with water and some sugar. Then put it through a strainer to get the seeds out and throw it back in the blender with a bit of ice, amazingly refreshing!

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Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your thoughts.