IFAS Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service
The Naranjilla Solanum quitoense is a tomato relative native
to the northern part of South America and it's cultivated usually at high
elevations, between three and seven thousand feet. The plant can grow to
heights of six to ten feet with very large spiny leaves, often measuring
18 inches long, and five to eight inches wide or bigger. The dark green leaves
have purple veins on the upper surface and whitish or purplish on the lower
All parts of the plant are very pubescent and contain many thorns.
The globular shaped fruit usually measure an inch and a half to two and a
half inches diameter at maturity. They are bright orange and covered with
short brittle hairs, which can be easily removed by rubbing. When cut open,
the fruit resembles a tomato with green, acid pulp and many small seeds.
A delicious and refreshing green colored juice is prepared from the fruits
and the fruits can be made into drinks, or used in preserves and pies.
Production of the naranjilla is pretty much year round, although
more fruits are produced during the summer months because of better growing
conditions. Plants can be propagated easily by seeds or superior forms by
cuttings or even grafting. Most plants begin to bear at six to twelve months
of age and continued production can be expected for three to four years,
before the plants begin to decline.
Like tomatoes, naranjilla is very subject to root knot, nematode,
and other soil problems, and this causes a gradual decline. You can escape
this problem by growing the plants in large containers, with an enriched
A close relative of the naranjilla, called cocona, from the upper
Amazon of Peru, is similar except it has cream colored pulp and no thorns.
Its fruit is larger and more acid than naranjilla, but is made commonly into
pies, preserves, and jelly. The cocona seems to be better fruited for Florida's
subtropical climate and the plants don't have as many problems as naranjilla,
which still prefers a little elevation rather than being grown at sea level.
Plants should be put in areas where they have good drainage, as they
drown very quickly if flooded for even brief periods. If grown close to salt
water, protect from direct spray with other more salt tolerant plantings
to avoid possible leaf burns.
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© 2000 BGCII Page Posted March 2004