February 4, 2018

Jaltomato (Jaltomata sp. div.)

Genus Jaltomata belongs to family Solanaceae. There occur about 60 species in Central and South America. They have often edible fruits and small but sometimes very ornamental flowers. Some species are herbaceous perennials which creates annual shoots and permanent undergrown tuberous rhizomes. Other ones are evergreen or deciduous shrubs with (half-) woody stems. Fruits – berries with large calyxes – similar in structure to small tomatoes are black or orange (rarely red) colored. The taste of them is various depending to species. They can be more or less easily propagated by seeds (sown surface, GA3 can help). I tried to grow 6 species.
Jaltomata sinousa (Tomatito)
 The most known is Jaltomata procumbens (Stoop Jaltomato, Black Jaltomato). It is herb to 1.8 m high (but usual smaller), erect to procumbent, often branched, with underground tuberous rootstock. The flowers are white or pale yellow, hairy and fruits black (rarely green). It is native to Central and South America (from Arizona to Ecuador). The fruits tastes not very well raw, but can be used to making delicious jams. Some accessions are very easy to growing in temperate areas but other are difficult. I grew two forms: one bought in seed-shop (very easy and fruited abundantly, fruits dropped down when riped) and the second one gathered from wild state from Mexico. The last was difficult and unless it grew large and flowered freely but it created only a few fruits (which did not fall down). 

Jaltomata procumbens (the form commercially sold as fruiting plant)

The flower

Ripening fruits

Ripe fruits
The coin on the photos is size about 2,5cm = 1inch

Jaltomata procumbens (the wild form from Mexico)

Unripe fruit

The closest cousin of J.procumbens is Jaltomata tlaxcala (Green Jaltomato) – it is even recognized by scientists as one of the green fruit forms of the first species. They both are very similar but fruits are yellow-green when ripe (they fall down then) and the taste of J. tlaxcala is much better – sweet and aromatic, very good also raw. Both these species can be easy grown as annuals but I am trying now wintering the tuberous rhizomes in slightly moist soil in pots and in Sphagnum moss in cellar (in cool temperatures but protected before a frost).
Jaltomata tlaxcala

The ripe fruits of this species are yellow-green and very sweet

Next species which I grew with success is Jaltomata sinuosa  (Tomatito, Mishuñan, Tungay, Curving Jaltomato) from Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru (it is probably Incan cultivate relict). This is erect plant which grows to about 1-2 m = 3-7ft tall in one season. The leaves of this species are quite hairy, flowers lovely blue and fruits orange with good taste raw. It is a perennial shrub which can die back and resprout in cooler climate, but is not resistant to frosts. It can be also grown as annual or can be wintered on windows sill in warm, sunny place (or also probably shortly in cool, dark cellar). It starts to flowering also during long days in temperate northern summer and fruits easily. 
Jaltomata sinuosa

Unripe fruits

The fruits fall down when ripe
I tried growing 3 other species (also from Peru) yet, but without success (they not fruited). The reason can be lacking of pollinators, or possible (but I am not sure it) self-incompalibity (I grew only 1 plant of each species). 
The first of them is Jaltomata bernardelloana (Sogorome de la Castilla, Bernardello’s Jaltomato). It is (half-)woody shrub 1-2 (5) m = 3-7 (16) ft tall with orange fruits. It creates medium size ovate hairy leaves and very ornamental purple flowers. It started to flowering early in my 50° N latitude, so I have a hope that in next years it will create fruits yet. 
Jaltomata bernardelloana
Young seedling

Jaltomata cajacayensis (Musho, Cajacay Jaltomato). It is very little know plant. It is small evergreen half-woody shrub and has rather small leaves and twisted, very well branched twigs. The flowers are very small and whitish. Fruits are orange colored. It started to full flowering very late (in end of September) so it can be very difficult to growing in northern temperate areas in open gardens.
Jaltomata cajacayensis 
The seedling

The flowers are very small but lovely

The last species which I grew is Jaltomata ventricosa (Sorogome, Ventricose Jaltomato) from northern Peru. This is erect herbaceous shrub to 1,5m = 5ft tall with glabrous leaves. Flowers of this species are very lovely and fruits orange colored, but this is probably stricte short-day-flowering species and it have not flowered at all in my experience.
Jaltomata ventricosa

It is day-length sensitive blooming plant and it has never flowered in my experience
There exist numerous other Jaltomata species yet. If you have seeds of any of them please write to me.

1 comment:

  1. My Jaltomata tlaxcala are fruiting now. Germination was inhibited by the unusually hot weather, but once they came up, growth was quite rapid. I'm hoping I can ripen the fruit indoors. Thanks.


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