July 2, 2018

Rare Pepino cousins (Solanum sect. Basarthrum)

Pepino (Solanum muricatum) it is quite rare cultivated in Europe fruit herb which is origin to South America. The plant is similar to common potato in appearance but it creates large (usually yellow and purple striped) edible fruits. It belongs to series Muricata within section Basarthrum of genus Solanum. There exist numerous (over 20) wild cousins of Pepino, which often also create edible fruits, but usually smaller. 
Ripe fruits of Tzimbalo (Solanum canense) (commonly sold in web-shops under false name “Solanum caripense”)
They are very hard to find in trading but I grew 2 species: Tzimbalo (Solanum canense) and Pepino Lloron (Solanum caripense). They both are easy to germinating (should be sow surface) and can fruit in first year from seeds if sown early (the best to sow them in January/February and replant outside after last frosts).
Tzimbalo (Solanum canense) (commonly sold in Internet shops under false name “Solanum caripense”) – this is tropical procumbent (not climbing) perennial herb, with large numerous-leaflet pinnate-compound leaves, which creates small, round, pale green, purple striped, very delicious edible fruits. It is origin to lowlands of Central and South America (Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia). I noticed that the seeds which are commonly sold in internet seed-shops as Tzimbalo “Solanum caripense” are misidentified and that this is truly Solanum canense. The S. canense differs from true S. caripense by a few features as: 
- branched inflorescences, 
- more flowers in inflorescences, 
- much more leaflets in pinnate-compound leaves (7-15 in case of S. canense in comparison to 3-5 of S. caripense), 
- existing of interstitial leaflets (which lacks in S. caripense), 
- and lax habit (in comparison to half-vining habit if S. caripense), 
- round shape of fruits (they are egg-shaped and smaller in case of true S. caripense), 
-star-like shape flowers (S. caripense has rotate flowers). 
Solanum canense belongs to series Canensa which is monophyletic group (there belongs only this one species) within section Basarthrum but I read that it can be successful crossed with some other species of this section (as S. trachycarpum).
Solanum canense creates star-shaped flowers...
...and branched inflorescences
Young fruits and flowers
Unripe fruits
Fruits ripe very late, so one year I harvested numerous unripe fruits only (because they grew in open garden, not in pots, and I could not to take them inside in autumn)
Ripening fruits
Ripe fruits (late autumn - plant grew in pot and was taken inside in end of summer)
Pepino Lloron (Solanum caripense) this is (sub-)tropical (it is said to survive short periods of light frost to -2,5ºC = 27,5ºF), scrambling perennial, with half-woody stems, little 3-5-leaflet-compound leaves and small aromatic fruits. It grows in wild state in South America (Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela) and Central America (Costa Rica) at mountain elevations (800-3,800m = 2700-12700ft). The fruits (a little oblong, pale green, dark green striped) are edible and are eagerly eaten by local people. They are sweetish and aromatic (delicious!) but small (not larger than cherry, only to 3cm = 1,2inch long, usually smaller). I bought seeds of this one from one shop as unknown species of nightshade (Solanum sp.). I only read that it was harvested in mountains of Peru. I identified it as true S. caripense when it grew up (with key to genus Solanum of Peru). This species belongs to series Caripensia (also within sect. Basarthrum) and is said to be able to successful crossing with Pepino (S. muricatum). It is very similar to Pepino (the translation of Spanish name "Pepino Lloron" is "Weeping Pepino").
The flowers of true Solanum caripense are rotate (not star-shaped)
It can create dense half-climbing bushes
The pinnately-compound leaves have usually only 3 (rarely 5) leaflets
Solanum caripense has larger calyx than S. canense
Ripening fruits (true Solanum caripense has less flowers in inflorescence and less fruits in infrutescence than S. canense)
The ripe fruits of true S. caripense (in the end of summer - this is earlier than S. canense)
In South and Central America there exists numerous other species of Solanum sect. Basarthrum (Pepino cousins). If you have available seeds of any of them please write to me.

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