It’s mid-September (let’s pretend I did not say that out loud), and the glorious Morelle de Balbis plant is bearing ripe fruit. This process began a few weeks ago but I withheld my judgement until several were ready for picking.
I’ve had several opportunities to try them now and can report that the taste is, in a word, insipid. I read several descriptions shortly after purchasing the seeds and the fruit I am picking from our yardshare garden does not meet some of the more flattering accounts. They do have a slight citrus note, but watermelon and cherries… Please. Either my palette is unrefined or others’ are overambitious. Mind you I am basing my entire assessment on a single plant grown in a rather wet year, but still.
The texture of the fruit is very similar to a tomatillo or ground cherry. I suspect that cooking might be in order for the remaining harvest. If I can manage to harvest it all. Those spikes are deadly. Like a tomatillo, the husks pull back from the soft part of the fruit as they mature. This leaves a little bit of room to manage them but not much. Davin was unable to pick even one the other day without spearing his fingers on those spines. He claims they are poisoned in some way and that the ensuing welt was bigger and more painful than it should have been for a spine of that size. This is one crop I’d happily leave to the critters, but I doubt they’ll be bothered when there are still so many passive foodstuffs left to steal.
So let’s tally up the score. Litchi tomato is a hostile and belligerent plant that threatens personal injury at every turn and produces tasteless fruit that is damned near impossible to harvest.
Will I grow it again? YES!
Regardless of the outcome I’m glad I tried this plant and will definitely grow it again, especially when I’ve got more space. The flowers are gorgeous and have attracted an abundance of pollinators to the garden. Watching it’s progress has been a delightful experiment and a good start to my explorations in Solanum Family oddities. In the future I will grow it for show only without the expectation of a useful food crop at the end of the season.