The Naranjita of Quito, Solanum quitoense, is a shrub of Solanaceae family that grows wild in the subtropical forests of the plateaus of the Andes mountain range between 1200 and 2500 msnm in shaded and fresh places near water streams with temperatures between 17 and 20ºC. It is especially abundant in Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. Also one is in wild form in the forests of Venezuela, Brazil, Costa Rica and Panama and it has been feral from cultivated units in some islands of Polynesia and Asian countries like Borneo and China.
Gorgeous flower of Naranjita of Quito in September. The floral structure is typical of all the Solanaceae with five white petals, five yellow stamens and a pistil.
In Central America it is called Naranjita or Naranjilla of Quito, Lulo (in Quechua language), Obando, Morella of Quito, Coconilla and Nuquí. Two varieties are known: Solanum quitoense var. septentrionale, with thorns, that it prefers to live in heights superiors to the 2000 msnm. and it is the wild ancestral form and Solanum quitoense var. quitoense, without thorns, that grow better in heights inferiors to the 2000 msnm and are a mutation selected through culture that lacks the dominant gene that codifies the thorns. The naranjitas of Quito are consumed in fresh as table fruit or is destined to the preparation of juices, jams, ice creams and desserts. This fruit is exported to Europe, Japan and the United States.
Three plants of Lulo in August cultivated in the Mediterranean island of Majorca next to a wall oriented towards the west. They belong to the variety septentrionale with thorns.
In Mediterranean climates the plants of Lulo rarely survive the winter cold, but they are possible to be cultivated as if they were tomato plants, having to spend the first winter in flowerpot within a greenhouse or in house near a window. In the middle of the second spring they are possible to be seeded in earth in the outside. If one provides dung or compost and abundant irrigations at the beginning of the summer they begin to bloom and they give a good harvest of fruits that are maturing gradually until entered good the autumn. When arrives the winter the Naranjita of Quito usually dies, since it does not support to temperatures inferiors to 10ºC. If the winter is very smooth and the plant is protected of the north wind and the frosts sometimes survive the main stem and branches more thicknesses, than they return to appear with the increase of the temperatures of the spring.
Great Solanum quitoense leaves that can get to measure more than 50 centimeters. The gorgeous dwelled veins draw attention. The surface of the leaves is covered with a fine woolly hairiness like velvet.
In Central America the Lulo usually is cultivated under the tops of the trees, since it is essentially an underbrush plant and needs permanent shade with precipitations superiors to 1500 liters m2 annual. The natives directly seed it in the forest in the dark of the underbrush, but the plants only give to good harvests the two or three first years. When they have consumed the little nutrients of the sylvan ground and begins to diminish the production of fruits, the farmers leave the plantation and look for a new zone of the forest where to seed.
Intense dwelled color of the new buds, the petioles, the veins and the face inferior of the leaves. The frightful thorns that protect all the parts of the plant, especially the petioles, the later part of rachis and the veins of the leaves draw attention.
In spite of being an underbrush shrub also it can live to total sun, but the high solar radiation accelerates much its photosynthetic metabolism and shortens its productive life to only one or two harvests of fruits. Consequently it is preferable to throughout cultivate it in dark conditions, obtaining thus fruits during all the year throughout four or five years.
First flower of one of previous Naranjitas of Quito in the middle of the month of June. As much the flowers as the new leaves are covered with a smooth wooliness that to the tact seems velvet.
Same previous flower in detail.
Lateral vision of a flower of Lulo with its abundant smooth hairiness like the velvet.
Woolly chalice of the previous flower.
Solanum quitoense reproduces easily by seeds that take of 3 to 6 weeks in germinating. Also it is possible to be reproduced by stakes of about 30 centimeters, clearing the leaves to avoid the transpiration and seeding them in inclined position in sand dealt with fungicides, because they are very susceptible to being attacked by fungi. Another method more and more used by the nurserymen and the great plantations is the in vitro reproduction of vegetal tissues from meristem. With this method the most productive varieties, more resistant, healthier and with fruits of better quality can be propagated vegetative without danger of contamination by esporas of fungi, obtaining themselves thousands of identical clones to the plant mother.
Still green fruit of Lulo or Naranjita of Quito covered with rigid hairs that nail in the skin as needles and can bring about cutaneous irritations and urticaria in the sensible people. For the harvesting protective gloves are used and the hairs retire with a brush or a rag.
Two naranjitas of Quito with stinging hairs already retired, imported from Colombia and acquired in the section of tropical fruits of a department store of Palma de Mallorca.
Yellowish green pulp of both previous fruits divided in four compartment. Each naranjita can get to contain up to thousand seeds. The pulp is acid, refreshing and very rich in vitamin C, mineral and antioxidants. It is possible to be eaten to teaspoons as if it was a flan. In Central America it is very appreciated the fresh juice slightly diluted with a little water with added sugar.
The Naranjita of Quito is a fruit with a promising future. It has a great potential market in Europe, Asia, the United States and Canada with a foreseeable increase of the exports towards these countries. It would be interesting to foment the culture of this shrub between the Andean farmers.