Growing and Saving Seed Of Litchi Tomato
Latin name Solanum sisymbriifolium is a member of the solanaceous, or tomato, family. The plants somewhat resemble a tomato, but they reach 8-10 feet tall and are quite bushy and covered in prickles that can be painful to the touch. This is an intriguing member of the tomato family! Please plan ahead to host a prickly plant in your garden. Many people choose to locate their plants along a lesser used fenceline. The plants do appreciate the support of a cattle panel or fence to grow upright optimally. Also known as Vila vila. If you find yourself fascinated by this plant, check out the Facebook group called "friends of vila vila" for a community of growers.uction.
Native to dry regions of South America, from Ecuador to Argentina. While the alien-like plants may seem like a new innovation, litchi tomato was celebrated in seed catalogs of antiquity as an exotic and delicious fruit. The 1896 Wilson’s Seed Farm catalog featured a plant referred to as Solanum anthrophagorum, and it was described as a bright red fruit that lends itself well to pies and sauces. The Wilson’s catalog also told of the fruit being used as a condiment for a cannibal's meal of human flesh in Fiji. Botanists believe the litchi tomato to be native to South America, yet early accounts mention it as a plant growing in the islands of the South Pacific.
- The fruit is delicious, with a flavor like a cross between a tomato and a cherry. Wonderful for snacking or in preserves or pies.
- Litchi tomatoes can be treated just like tomatoes in germinating.
- Start indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost date and transplant out after all chance of frost has passed.
- Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep.
- Ideal germination temperature is 70-78 F.
- Sow in quality seed starting mix and provide average moisture.
- Seeds germinate in 7-14 days.
- Provide full sun.
- Plants prefer well-drained soil with average to rich organic matter.
- Provide average, consistent moisture.
- Space plants 2-2.5 feet apart, and for best results grow up a cattle panel or other strong structure and secure plants as you would a tomato plant.
- Please take caution when handling these plants as the prickles are quite painful.
- Berries are ready to harvest when bright red and soft; the calyx will turn yellow.
- Wear gloves when harvesting berries.
- A pest- and disease-free plant.
- This plant is used as a trap crop for potato cyst nematode.
- Litchi tomato is self pollinating; however, the flowers are often visited by insects and cross pollination can occur between other litchi tomatoes. The litchi tomato will not cross with other members of the solanaceous family.
- Save seeds by allowing fruit to become quite squishy and soft before picking.
- Mash berries and dilute with water to help separate the seeds from the flesh, then skim the skin and flesh, leaving just the seeds.
- Dry seeds thoroughly and place in an airtight container.
- Store seeds in a cool, dark, dry place.