Here is the Pepino Lloron, Solanum caripense. This sub tropical fruit originates from Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela as well as Costa Rica and grows wild in the mountains at 2500 to 12700 feet ASL. It is often confused with Tzimbalo, Solanum canense which looks almost exactly the same but are indeed two totally different species. This berry like fruit has a green skin with black stripes and a amber cream colored flesh inside getting to about .5 to 1 inch round and weighting 1 oz. The thing about this strange fruit is they can withstand light frost to 25F which is odd for a sub tropical plant! Plants can get to 5 feet long and sprawl along the ground so give them plenty of room to grow. The fully ripened fruits will have a green color to them with black stripes and fall to the ground. The fruits are edible and often eaten by the locals and is said to have a lightly sweet flavor but also can have a not so sweet taste and may even be bitter and should not be eaten till it falls to the ground! Surface sow seeds in warm, moist soil to germinate. Open pollinated perennial indeterminate pinnate leaves, mid to late season 78 to over 100 days and can be wintered over.
Pepino Lloron, Solanum caripense
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1) Prepare for planting. Sprout tomato seeds in small containers, preferably 4" or smaller. In-ground germination is not recommended. Use a standard potting mix that is well drained. Start seeds in containers approximately 8 weeks prior to the planned set-out date. Plants should ultimately be transplanted to the garden 1-2 weeks after the expected date of last frost.
2) Plant seeds. Plant seeds 1/4" deep in the soil. Cover with soil and water carefully. Overwatering can cause fungal growth which leads to seed rot. Excess water can also bury seeds deep in the soil where they will not be able break the surface. Water when the soil surface just begins to dry. Multiple seeds can be planted in a single starter container, but should be thinned once seedlings appear so only a single plant remains. Seeds do not require light for germination but some light source should be provided for seedlings once they emerge from the soil.
3) Germination. Soil should be kept consistently warm, from 70-85F. Cool soils, below about 60-65F, even just at night, will significantly delay or inhibit germination. Hot soils above 95F will also inhibit germination.
4) Care of seedlings. Once a few true leaves have developed, seedlings should be slowly moved outside (if sprouted indoors) to ambient light. Care should be taken not to expose seedlings to direct, scorching sun so plants may need to be hardened off via slow sun exposure. Hardening off can be done using a shaded or filtered light location, as well as protection from strong winds, rain or low humidity. Hardening off time varies, but can take 5-10 days.
5) Planting out. Plant in the ground once danger of frost has past and daytime temperatures consistently reach 65F. Plants can be spaced as close as 24" apart. Germination time: 1-3 weeks under ideal conditions.