This is naranjilla, fruit of the Inca. Beloved by many in its South American homeland, naranjilla is a fruit that grows best in the "eternal spring" weather of the highland tropics. Here in Florida, this one's a challenge, but I'm a fruit geek, and I had to try growing it. I'm happy to report that my plants are now ripening their first naranjilla fruits.
Also known as "lulo", this fruit is often used for juice in its home region, and I've heard many people speak fondly of its wonderful flavor. Naranjilla is one of the numerous crops domesticated by the Incans as part of their remarkable system of mountain agriculture, along with the fruit cherimoya, and the root-crops potato, oca, mashua, and ullucu.
My Florida-grown naranjilla fruits are beautiful, with a pleasant, unique combo of tastes - they remind me of citrus and tomato flavors mixed! (Naranjilla is in the nightshade family, along with tomatoes, so tomato-like flavors are not too surprising.)
But even though they taste good, I think the full naranjilla experience can get much better than what I'm experiencing. For one, fruits of this species can get considerably bigger. Just click on the tag , and you can see fruits that appear at least three inches (7.5 cm) across, while mine are only about 1.5 inches (3.5 cm). My fruits are also pretty seedy and have hardly enough liquid to justify juicing them, while in many of other people's naranjilla pics, you can see a thick layer of juicy flesh.
Is this difference in fruit quality the result of genes or environment? While my Florida growing conditions are certainly sub-optimal for this species, I think other people are also growing better varieties of naranjilla. The seed company I got my seeds from (Baker Creek) shows on their website a picture of naranjilla fruits, including some cut in half, that look exactly as small and seedy as the fruits I grew from their seed - very different from the big, luscious, juicy fruits I see in other people's pics.
So I think I need to track down seeds of one of those GOOD varieties of naranjilla, to really see what this Andean fruit can do here.
Have you grown or eaten naranjilla/lulo? What do you think of it?