Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Solanum quitoensis ( Naranjilla )
A straggly shrub, reaching a maximum size of 10 x 7 feet, that is native to South America, north to Costa Rica. It is most common in southern Columbia, Ecuador and Peru. Naranjilla plants are usually not spiny, except for clones originating in the mountains of Costa Rica which are spiny. They are rapid growing if given an abundance of fertilizer once a month. They prefer tropical highland climates with 60 + inches of rainfall in a year and average monthly temperatures from 63 to 66 F throughout the year. The Naranjilla does not like temperatures above 85 F and prefers light or partial shade on humus-rich, fertile, well drained soil though tolerating stony soil as well. They prefer a site where there are large trees to protect them from excessive wind but not close enough to compete with the roots.
The large, angular-lobed leaves, up to 20 inches in length, are bright green and sometimes tinted purple. The leaves and the stems are densely fine hairy.
It is grown for its attractive foliage outdoors during summer or in greenhouses in temperate climates but will not fruit there.
The fragrant, white flowers, up to 1.2 inches across, are borne in clusters.
They are followed by fruits, up to 1.5 ( 2.5 inches in spiny Costa Rica form ) inches across, that resemble the related Tomato. The fruits have leathery, orange skin and green flesh. The juicy, tasty ( lemony-pineapple tasting ) fruits can be eaten but only after the brown hairy coat is washed off and the calyx removed ( the calyx will usually naturally separate when ripened ). The fruit from commercially grown plants is usually harvested before fully ripened so that they last longer during shipping.
Fruiting begins at about 10 months of age when grown from seed. The Naranjilla will continue to bear fruit until 4 to 7 years of age depending upon growing conditions.
Healthy plants bear a maximum of 150 fruits in a year, typically closer to 100.
Everbearing in ideal climates, in Florida they mostly bear fruit only in winter.
Fruits picked when half ripened will store for about 8 days at normal room temperature, up to 2 months refridgerated at 45 F with approx. 80% humidity.
The fruit have many flat, hard seeds up to 0.12 inches across.
Hardy zones 10 to 12. For commercial production it is recommended to plant the Naranjulla in rows so that they are 6 to 8 feet apart. In the tropics it is recommended to plant them in their permanent position during a cloudy day at the start of the rainy season. In monsoon climates with a distinct dry season, irrigation to crops is essential during the dry season.

* photos taken on Aug 20 2011 @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD

* photo taken on Aug 25 2011 @ Scott Arboretum, Swarthmore, PA

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