Sunday, 25 April 2010

Discover: Wonderberry

Wonderberry (Solanum retroflexum), aka Sunberry, is an annual hybrid berry and its old scientific name, that is still often seen, Solanum × burbankii, indicates, it is of hybrid origin. The plant was bred by the old, venerable plantsman Luther Burbank in the early 1900s and it is a hybrid of S. villosum and S. guineense. It is sometimes called 'Garden Huckleberry', but that name properly refers to the S. scabrum, a totally different species.

The Wonderberry should be grown like a tomato in rows planted outside after all frosts have passed. Plants are compact, typically growing to a height of 12"-24", and the berries are produced very early even on 15cm (6in) plants, but take a while to ripen up to 1cm (1/2in) in diameter. 

The plant produces diminutive, dark blue-purple fruits that are bland in flavor and often combined with sugar in desserts. When cooked with sugar they develop a taste superior to blueberries. Best for pies, jam and jellies. Green (unripe) fruits are poisonous.

The Wonderberry shrub is an extremely easy to grow plant and fruit can be expected in 75 days from seed germination.

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