Solanum sisymbriifolium | Litchi Tomato
Litchi tomatoes, also known as Sticky Nightshade, Red Buffalo Bur, Fire & Ice plant, and Morelle de Balbis in France,Vila Vila in Latin America, has been grown as an ornamental curiosity in American gardens since the 19th century, but only recently has it gained attention as an edible food.
Litchi Tomatoes are a unique edible dark-red fruit the size of cherries with a distinctive flavor that resembles that of tart cherries, and a hint of tomato.
Plants grow as bushy greenery, reaching 3-5 feet tall, and are often staked or caged like tomatoes. Flowers have five petals and change from white to blue-purple in color, having an abundance of both, simultaneously.
While tomatoes can perish from a single early frost, Litchi Tomato is frost tolerant down to 25 degrees F. In warmer climates, plants will develop a woody stem and can overwinter to produce the following year. They can also be kept alive by overwintering in a greenhouse.
Grows best in full sun, but will tolerate part shade.
The sharp spikes that cover the entire plant make it resistant to animals, while the phyto-compounds in the foliage make Litchi Tomato resistant to insects and other pests. If you are to touch the plant anywhere you will need to use gloves. To harvest, pull the fruit gently from the stalk. When they’re fully ripe, the spines will fold away from the fruit and the fruits will easily come off the stem. If you have trouble harvesting, they’re likely not ripe yet.
It’s tough to find Litchi Tomato recipes, but most folks cook them into jams or pies (like tart cherries), stew them into sweet or savory sauces (like tomatoes), or just eat them fresh off the plant.
Type: Annual or perennial
Sun exposure: Full sun
Mature height: 3-5 ft
Mature width: 4 ft
Hardiness zones: 10-11