Solanum quitoense, known as naranjilla (Spanish pronunciation: [naɾaŋˈxiʎa], "little orange") in Ecuador and Panama and as lulo ([ˈlulo], from Quechua) in Colombia, is a subtropical perennial plant from northwestern South America. The specific name for this species of nightshade means "from Quito."
The naranjilla plant is attractive, with large heart-shaped leaves up to 45 cm in length. The leaves and stems of the plant are covered in short purple hairs. Naranjilla are delicate plants and must be protected from strong winds and direct sunlight. They grow best in partial shade.
Within the genus Solanum, S. quitoense is a part of the leptostemonum clade. Within this clade, S. quitoense belongs to the Lasiocarpa clade. Other species within this clade include: S. candidum, S. hyporhodium, S. lasiocarpum, S. felinum, S. psudolulo, S. repandum and S. vestissimum.
Other plants bear morphological similarity to S. quitoense, but they may or may not be closely related. Some of these plants are: S. hirtum, S. myiacanthum, S. pectinatum, S. sessiliflorum and, S. verrogeneum. Many of these plants, related or not, can be confused with S. quitoense. Furthermore, Solanum quitoense's physical traits vary from plant to plant, making identification challenging: at least three varietals (with spines, without spines, or a third variety known as baquicha, which features red-ripening fruits and smooth leaves) are known to occur. One characteristic that is unique to S. quitoense is the ring of green flesh within the ripe fruit. The only related fruit to have green flesh is the cultivated variant of Solanum lasiocarpum.
The new growth of this plant is densely covered in protective trichomes. Coloration in the plant's trichomes around the new growth and flowers varies from purple to white. Identification can be difficult for this reason.
- Solanum angulatum Ruiz & Pav.
- Solanum macrocarpon Molina (non L.: preoccupied)
- Solanum macrocarpon Pav. ex Dunal in DC. (nomen nudum, preoccupied)
- Solanum nollanum Britton
- Solanum quitense Kunth
- Solanum quitoense f. septentrionale (R.E.Schult. & Cuatrec.) D'Arcy
- Solanum quitoense var. septentrionale R.E.Schult. & Cuatrec.
The naranjilla has been proposed as a new flavouring for the global food industry, but it fares poorly in large-scale cultivation, presenting an obstacle to its wider use. Its fruit, like tomatoes, is easily damaged when ripe, so is usually harvested unripe. The fruits are found at markets. It is common for locals to make beverages by adding sugar and water to the freshly squeezed fruits. Locals will also add salt to the fresh fruit, cut it into pieces, and eat it.
Pests & diseases
Pests easily destroy a crop of this species. This limits its use for agriculture. One common type of infection is caused by the root-knot nematode. The ripe fruit can be attacked by fungus fairly easily, so it is often picked unripe to avoid rotting.
Hybrids are an increasingly popular solution to the nematode pest problem. Solanum quitoense has been hybridized with other plants, most commonly with S. sessiliflorum, a plant with similar phenotypic traits. The leaves, flowers and fruits of S. sessiliflorum are similar in form to S. quitoense, but has much larger fruits that are yellow; the resulting hybrids have fruits with yellowish fruit pulp.
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- Solanaceae Source (2005): Solanum quitoense. Version of December 2005. Retrieved 2008-SEP-25.
- Óscar Acosta, Ana M. Pérez, Fabrice Vaillant (2009) Chemical characterization, antioxidant properties, and volatile constituents of naranjilla (Solanum quitoense Lam.) cultivated in Costa Rica. Archivos Latinoamericana de Nutrición 59(1): 88-94