Two tropical culinary plants I had to have this year


look past the large spiney leaves to see the round buds clustered in the center

NaranjillaSolanum quitoense – the botanical variety septentrionale is said to differ from the typical form, quitoense, (which literally means “of Ecuador”) in that it has spines on the stem, branches, petioles, and principal veins of the leaves.

The naranjilla plant, a member of the nightshade family, is a herbaceous, spreading shrub that grows up to 8 ft tall with 1.5×2 ft leaves. It is covered in dangerous purple and green thorns and bears a small orange edible fruit said to taste like a cross between a pineapple and a lemon. I wanted it for the rarity and novelty as well as its ability to deter pests such as small children, dogs [and dog owners] and deer.

It is planted in a traditional ornamental urn with plants whose color, texture and flowers compliment its gray, hairy leaves. The flower buds, looking like brussel sprouts on multiple stems, will open to a yellow (fragrant?) flower. I hope to use the fruit in a very small batch of preserves for an unusual taste treat come winter. Look for tiny tarts with little dollops of jam on them at one of the holiday parties and be prepared for a surprise!

My garlic vines arrived today. Little known outside of the Amazon, cipo’ d’ alho is a profuse bloomer with a leaf fragrance somewhere between garlic and bacon (when rubbed.) It is an  up to 8 ft high vining shrub with 3” purple trumpet flowers that course through the spectrum to white before fading. It supposedly is not unusual to have multiple colors on the plant at one time.  Cipo’ d’ alho will make a savory culinary addition to my indoor garden. I’ll use it as I would a bay leaf, for an infusion of complex flavors in soups, stews and slow cooker recipes. Maybe I’ll wrap a shrimp in each leaf, as I do with the meyer lemon leaves from my 25 year old lemon tree, when grilling or stir-frying!

About richardfrisbie

I'm a professional baker, reader, bookseller, publisher, columnist, photographer, cook, hiker, kayaker, freelance writer, and workaholic who likes to garden
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