Thursday, April 14, 2016

L is for Litchi Tomatoes

I'm trying to remember when I first planted these Litchi Tomatoes (also known as Morelle de Balbis.) I think it was about four years ago.  I planted it from seed that I bought from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and put that thing in a big pot.  It was deadly to look at, and grew to about 4 foot tall.  Honestly, the little red sweet "tomatoes" (more like a berry) are so full of seeds, they weren't all that attractive to us, but I kept this plant for its conversational properties. Anyone who sees it will definitely have plenty to say!

That plant lived throughout the entire winter in that pot - didn't freeze, just kept growing. The next spring I planted it in the ground in a corner of the garden where the grandkids would not run into it (note the sharp thorns!) and it grew woodier and bigger, and we had several volunteer little plants spring up all around it.

Since then, I've been able to keep one of these plants going by just digging up volunteers. This past fall I transplanted one of the volunteers and kept it in the greenhouse to put out in the garden again.  It's been transplanted out to the herb garden now and it's growing gang-busters! Litchi doesn't seem to be very fussy about what type of soil it's in either. It seems to enjoy just being watered occasionally and ignored.
It is a model of self-defense.  Take a look at those thorns -- they are on every surface of this plant, one the stems, on the top of the leaves, and the bottom of the leaves! You cannot work with this plant unless you are totally gloved up and have on long sleeves.
 The flowers reveal that this plant is a member of the nightshade family.  It grows with the same habit as a tomato plant, but mine has never needed a support of any kind, even at its tallest of about 4 foot.
 Papery white flowers
 Even the sepals are covered in thorns.
Thorns on top and bottom of the leaves

It's been an interesting plant, well worth growing.  Just keep it away from foot traffic!


  1. Thorns are not good. It is an interesting plant. Apparently it is made to live through a lot.