- Naranjilla Plants – Naranjilla Growing Information And Care
- Naranjilla Growing Information
- Naranjilla Growing Conditions
- Naranjilla Care
- 9 Surprising Benefits of Lulo
- What is Lulo?
- Nutritional Value of Lulo
- Health Benefits of Lulo
- Culinary Uses
- Solanum quitoense Lulo (Quechua) Naranjilla
Naranjilla Plants – Naranjilla Growing Information And Care
An exotic plant and fruit in its own right, the naranjilla (Solanum quitoense) is an interesting plant for those wishing to learn more about it, or even wanting to grow. Keep reading for naranjilla growing information and more.
Naranjilla Growing Information
“The golden fruit of the Andes,” naranjilla plants are herbaceous shrubs with a spreading habit that are commonly found throughout Central and South America. Wild growing naranjilla plants are spiny, while cultivated varieties are spineless and both types having thick stems which become woody as the plant matures.
The foliage of the naranjilla consist of 2-foot long, heart-shaped leaves that are soft and woolly; when young, the leaves are coated with brilliant purple hairs. Fragrant flower clusters are borne from the naranjilla plants with five white upper petals morphing into purple haired beneath. The resulting fruit is covered with brown hairs that are easily rubbed off to reveal the bright orange exterior.
Inside the naranjilla fruit, the green to yellow juicy sections are separated by membranous walls. The fruit tastes like a delicious combination of pineapple and lemon and is peppered with edible seeds.
This tropical to subtropical perennial resides within the family Solanaceae (Nightshade) and is believed to be native to Peru, Ecuador and southern Colombia. Naranjilla plants were first introduced to the United States through a gift of seeds from Colombia in 1913 and from Ecuador in 1914. The New York World’s Fair in 1939 really created some interest with the exhibit of the naranjilla fruit and 1,500 gallons of juice to be sampled.
Not only is naranjilla fruit juiced and drunk as a beverage (lulo), but the fruit (including the seeds) is also used in various sherbets, ice creams, native specialties and may even be made into wine. The fruit may be eaten raw by rubbing off the hairs and then halving and squeezing the juicy flesh into ones mouth, discarding the shell. That said, edible fruit should be completely ripe or else it may be quite sour.
Naranjilla Growing Conditions
Other naranjilla growing information is in reference to its climate. Although it is a subtropical species, the naranjilla cannot tolerate temperatures over 85 F. (29 C.) and flourishes in climates with temps between 62-66 F. (17-19 C.) and high humidity.
Intolerant of full sun exposure, naranjilla growing conditions should additionally be in semi-shade and it will thrive in higher altitudes of up to 6,000 feet above sea level with well distributed precipitation. For these reasons, naranjilla plants are often grown in northern conservatories as specimen plants but do not bear fruit in these temperate latitudes.
Along with its temperature and water requirements, naranjilla care cautions against planting in areas of strong winds. Naranjilla plants like partial shade, in rich organic soils with good drainage, although naranjilla will also grow in less nutrient rich stony soils and even on limestone.
In areas of Latin America, propagation of naranjilla is usually from seed, which is first spread out in a shaded area to ferment slightly to reduce mucilage, then washed, air dried and dusted with a fungicide. Naranjilla can also be propagated by air layering or from cuttings of mature plants.
Seedlings bloom four to five months after transplantation and fruit appears 10-12 months after seeding and continues for three years. Thereafter, the fruit production of the naranjilla declines and the plant dies back. Healthy naranjilla plants bear 100-150 fruit in their first year.
My favourite thing about Colombia was the fruit: delicious, cheap, plentiful and there are so many unusual varieties to try. You have the usual tropical fruit like pineapple, mango, papaya and watermelon but there are many more including some that are only available in Colombia or nearby countries.
I made it my mission during our 2.5 month stay to try as many Colombian fruits as I could. There is a bewildering array so I have documented it here so you know which ones to look out for on your visit.
Passionfruit – There are a number of passionfruits in Colombia:
Maracuya – This oval yellow passionfruit is the most common variety. It’s ripe when the hard skin is wrinkly. You cut it in half and scoop out the gunky insides which are full of small seeds. I liked it on my granola, but due to the tart flavour it is more common in delicious juices – one of my favourites.
Gulupa – A smaller, less common version of maracuya with a dark purple skin. This inside is similar but I preferred it to maracuya as although it’s still tart it’s a little sweeter.
Granadilla – A round, orange passionfruit with crunchy blue seeds in the gooey gunk. It’s much sweeter and milder so is better for eating alone rather than as juice. Another tasty addition to my granola.
Curuba – The banana passionfruit is a longer version in a small banana shape. I didn’t like this too much as although the gunk tasted fine the seeds were bitter and difficult to avoid.
Lulo – A very typical Colombian fruit that is only found there and in neighbouring Ecuador (where it’s known as naranjilla). It isn’t the easiest fruit to eat – it needs to be eaten when very soft, there are seeds to deal with and it’s a bit tart, so it’s usually used for juice. Jugo de Lulo is wonderful and refreshing with a sweet, almost sherbet flavour. Simon says it tastes like skittles (the sweet/candy). Don’t miss it.
Pitahaya– Also known as dragon fruit I enjoyed the pink version in Asia and here it is yellow. The spiky skin reveals a white filling with small black seeds. It’s tasty and sweet and can be eaten scooped out with a spoon. It is quite expensive compared to other fruit here, and not as easily found.
Mora – These small purple berries are very similar to blackberries with a tart flavour. It makes an excellent juice.
Feijoa – It looks like a small green cucumber with light brown/orangey flesh inside that I scooped out with a small spoon. I thought it was tasty – quite sweet, aromatic, and not too many seeds. It’s also known as pineapple guava or guavasteen.
Uchuva –This orange fruit is the size of a cherry tomato and grows inside a papery wrap. They manage to be sweet and sour at the same time.
Guayaba – Guava is popular and cheap in Colombia and is supposed to be very nutitious. The skin is edible but mine was too bitter so I stuck to the mild, pleasant pink flesh. I found the hard seeds annoying though.
Guayaba Manzana -The apple guava is much bigger, round, green on the outside with a white inside. It tastes just like guayaba and has the same hard seeds.
Guanábana– Another Colombian classic the soursop is a strange looking thing. It’s huge with a green spiky skin and a slimy white inside. It’s messy to eat so it’s best to stick to the juice. The juice wasn’t bad but I found it a bit strange– it looks like milk and has an unusual but mild flavour.
Tomate de Arbol –The tree tomato aka tamarillo is tomatoey as you’d expect. It isn’t sweet and although I liked it raw it’s usually consumed as juice or boiled in sugar. It’s oval shaped with a dark, orangey red inside and small black seeds that are OK to eat.
Carambolo – The starfruit has a mild flavour, that doesn’t taste of much to me. It looks cool though. Note: I’ve since had starfruit in Costa Rica and it had a much more tart taste.
Níspero – This unusual fruit is round with a rough brown skin. The pale orange inside also has a slightly rough texture and a sweet, malty taste. There are a few large black seeds but they are easy to remove. Apparently it tastes like chocolate as a juice.
Zapote -It looks like níspero but is smaller.
Chontodura –This bright red fruit is orange inside and looks like sweet potato. I had never heard of it before but was told by the vendor it’s from the Pacific Coast. Doing some research I think it’s also called pejibaye in other countries. I bought what I thought was a juice but it turned out to be fermented and I later discovered: “A strong alcoholic drink is made by allowing the raw, sugared flesh to stand for a few days until it ferments. This is prohibited in some parts of tropical America.“
Caimito – The Caribbean coast has many new fruits to try. I saw this dark purple fruit on a street stall in Cartagena and jumped at the chance to add to my exploration. It’s also known as star apple and the white filling has a mild, grape-like flavour I liked.
Corozo – Another Caribbean addition this small red fruit is only consumable as juice. It’s a bit like cranberry and is delicious.
Despite my mission I didn’t get to try all Colombian fruits. Some I couldn’t find include mamoncillo, anona, and borojo so look out for them on your visit to Colombia.
9 Surprising Benefits of Lulo
The important health benefits of lulo include its ability to improve the immune system, build strong bones, boost vision, regulate digestion, relieve stress, provide skincare, promote sleep, lower cholesterol, increase circulation, detoxify the body, and protect against certain cancers.
What is Lulo?
Lulo is a citrus-like fruit that grows on a small shrub or tree. It is native to the northwest region of South America and has several names by which it is known. In Colombia, lulo is the accepted name, but in Panama and Ecuador (and parts of the United States), this delicious, tangy little fruit is called Naranjilla (it is also nicknamed as Colombian fruit). The scientific name of lulo is Solanum quitoense and the flavor is very distinctive and tart. Some people would compare it to a pineapple, or even a combination of lime and rhubarb. Different cultivars in different countries have slightly different tastes, as well as different concentrations of nutrients. The juice of lulo is a popular healthy drink, but the unusual green color of the juice may surprise some people.
Although the demand for lulo around the world is growing because of its unique, exotic flavor, unfortunately, it is a member of the nightshade family, which is notoriously fragile and is susceptible to bruising, discoloration, and insects/diseases. For this reason, mass cultivation is not really an option for it, so it remains a small-scale crop that has relatively low export levels.
To eat, cut the fruit in half and scoop out the two, white fleshy halves. The fruit can be eaten raw, or it can be cooked. However, it is most popularly added to jams, jellies, pies, and other desserts, as well as in ice cream flavoring and as the main ingredient in certain fruit juices and wines. Since lulo is somewhat difficult to acquire, many people go through the trouble. It is packed with nutrients and organic compounds that make it a very healthy addition to your fruit intake.
Nutritional Value of Lulo
Lulo fruit has been found to have high levels of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin K, folate, niacin, and thiamine, as well as calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, zinc, and dietary fiber. In addition to carbohydrates, protein, and sugar, it contains a lot of water and very low levels of fats and calories. It also possesses many antioxidant qualities, although the exact antioxidant compounds have not been sufficiently studied.
Health Benefits of Lulo
With a unique taste, it also provides a great range of health benefits to all. Let’s discuss them in detail.
Being high in vitamin C and vitamin A, lulo is a wonderful way to boost your immune system. Vitamin C works as a natural antioxidant to clear out free radicals from your system. It also stimulates white blood cell production, which is the body’s first line of defense against infectious diseases and other pathogens.
Pepsin is a type of fiber that is found in lulo and is found to be very beneficial for the digestive tract. All fibers help to promote digestion, and pepsin is one of the best varieties for the health of your gastrointestinal tract. It can help eliminate constipation, cramping, bloating, and more serious conditions like gastric ulcers.
The carotenoids found in lulo, including vitamin A and beta-carotene, help to neutralize the free radicals that cause oxidative stress in certain ocular cells, including the macula lutea. This can reduce your chances of macular degeneration, cataracts, and other vision issues.
The combination of dietary fiber, which can help to eliminate dangerous, “bad” cholesterol from the body, and the rich variety of other vitamins and minerals can significantly improve the functioning of the cardiovascular system and lower your chances of developing atherosclerosis, as well as lower your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The combination of dietary fiber found in lulo can help to eliminate LDL (bad) cholesterol from the body, and the rich variety of other vitamins and minerals can significantly improve the functioning of the cardiovascular system. It also lowers your chance of developing atherosclerosis, as well as lowers your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Improves Bone Strength
Strong bones are important at all stages of life, so a fruit like lulo, which has a rich diversity of minerals, including calcium, phosphorous, and iron, can significantly improve the density of bone tissue, thereby preventing conditions like osteoporosis and even arthritis as we age.
Detoxifies the Body
Lulo has often been used in traditional medicine as a diuretic substance, meaning that it increases urination. This can cleanse the kidney of excess toxins, relieve stress on the liver, and eliminate excess salts, water, and even fat from the body. People often turn to diuretic substances when they are looking to lose weight, or detoxify their body and blood of toxins.
Although research is ongoing in terms of the actual method of action for these health conditions, lulo has been connected with hormonal changes in the body that can improve mood, reduce stress, and even promote sleep for people suffering from insomnia and restless sleep disorders.
A 2016 study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences comprises of research conducted on the anticancer potential of seven Brazilian edible fruits which also include lulo. The study found that methanol extracts from these fruits are able to inhibit tumor growth. More research is still awaited to be able to gauge the benefits of lulo for cancer.
Vitamin C is integral for the development of collagen, which enhances skin elasticity and skin smoothening. It also supports the development of connective tissue, blood vessels, and organs.
One of the main uses of lulo is to prepare juices and smoothies. The traditional Colombian beverage, lulada, can be prepared by mixing lulo with water and sugar. Another in the queue is Champus, which is prepared by mixing lulo with pineapple, corn, panela, cinnamon, cloves, and orange tree leaves. The fruit is also consumed raw or cooked. It is also used in making jams, jellies and fruit pies. Adding the fruit pulp as a topping to ice creams, cakes, fruit salads, and yogurt is also a yummy idea!
It’s a little rare in Medellin, but some supermarkets do stock peach palms.
This fiery fruit is more commonly known as a ‘dragon fruit’. It comes from three types of indigenous cactuses found in the Americas.
Pitahaya is probably the most refreshing fruit on this list. The inner white-colored pulp is rich in moisture and is perfect for summer days in Medellin.
At first, the fruit is a little intimidating. How do you prepare that? However, it’s relatively straightforward. You cut through the pink outside and slice it into quarters.
Dragon fruit tastes similar to a pear or a kiwi fruit. However, the skin is best avoided as it’s extremely bitter.
The chemical that causes pitahaya’s pink coloring, ‘lycopene’, has shown to dramatically reduce the risk of prostate cancer. However, the fruit should be consumed sparingly because of its high levels of fructose.
Have you tried any of these? What did you think? And what fruits did we miss? Let us know in the comments!
And to read the list of 22 exotic tropical fruits!
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Common Names: Naranjilla (Spanish), Lulo
Native Rage: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
The Lulo or the Naranjilla is a herbaceous shrub that can grow to 8ft high, with stems becoming somewhat woody over time. It is native to the subtropical understories of the Andes of Ecuador, to Peru, and to southern Columbia. The first recorded use of the lulo is in the mid-17th Century, and only until now is it gaining more interest and cultivation in places outside of its native range like Panama and Guatemala. A spreading plant, the leaves can get up to 2 feet long and one-and-a-half feet wide, and are covered in fine hairs. Spines are characteristic of the plant, though depending on the cultivar, the amount can range from fully covering the plant to none at all. If grown in a tropical climate, they flower and fruit throughout the year, bearing hairy, golf-ball sized fruits around the stem that when ripe, after rubbing off the hair, reveal a thick, bright-orange peel. Inside is a very juicy, acidic, green to yellowish pulp with an alleged pineapple-lemon flavor that drives the cultivation of this fruit for commercial purposes. Besides taste, it also has high amounts of fiber, citric acid, minerals, and vitamins. Though it is not used to cure or specifically help with any ailments, the fruit is very nutritious, has antioxidant properties, and is full of fiber that aids digestion.
One can eat a lulo fruit just by slicing the fruit in two and squeezing the pulp and juices out into one’s mouth, though they are also added as flavoring for native dishes, ice cream, sherbets, and other desserts. Traditionally in Colombia, people use frequently them as a beverage base in a drink called lulada, made with mashed lulos, lime juice, water, sugar, and ice. As a side note of caution when preparing the fruit, the hairs and spines of the plant can cause irritation for people with sensitive skin.
Though demand for the lulo is high, it will unlikely ever become a commercial crop. Besides specific growing environments, it is a member of the nightshade family, a diverse and often very fragile group of plants, including many economically important species such as potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. The lulo is unfortunately not spared from its relatives fragile traits, and in its case it is very susceptible to root damage by nematodes. To combat this, farmers often have to raze forests for uncontaminated soil, causing significant damage to the area often resulting in erosion, which reduces both the productivity of the land and the production of the fruit. The largest site of cultivation is a only 15-mile stretch in Ecuador near an Amazon River tributary, which is nowhere near enough for mass production. And so, there are many attempts now with grafting and hybridizing lulo plants resistant to these nematodes to not only forward the great economic potential of this plant, but also the conservation of rainforests.
Plants Profile for Solanum quitoense (Naranjilla), plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=SOQU. Accessed 1 Mar. 2018.