Unusual Tomatoes (Solanaceae family). As noted, tomatoes are
technically berries, but since covering all the common garden varieties
would take a book only several of the more unusual, little grown types are
briefly included here. Unlike garden tomatoes, most of these are used to
make jams, preserves, and desserts.
Cyphomandra Betacea. The tree tomato. A sweet, fruit, it can be
eaten raw but is best when cooked for jams and preserves. A very
ornamental tree that was first grown by the Indians of ancient Peru on
mountainsides at elevations up to 8,000 feet, the tree tomato grows up to
12 feet tall, has foot long elephant eared leaves, fragrant purple and
green flowers, and yields clusters of fruits that are egg shaped, smooth
skinned, and orange red when ripe. It bears fruit up to seven months a
year and can be grown outdoors where the temperature never falls much
below 50*F., but must be taken in during the winter months elsewhere and
grown in a greenhouse or a large, sunny window. Seedling plants grown in a
greenhouse or a large, sunny window. Seedling plants grown in containers
should be potted in rich loam with leaf mold and well-rotted manure added
to it, the size o the pot increased every year to accommodate root growth
until the plant finally occupies a large pot. The plants are usually cut
back in winter to encourage spring flowering, that being the extent of all
pruning. Tree tomatoes are easily grown from seed but potted plants can
also be purchased. A source for both is Lakeland Nurseries.
Physalis Pruinosa. The ground cherry, strawberry tomato, or husk
tomato. This plant resembles a dwarf cherry-tomato bush, 18 to 24 inches
tall, but bears deep yellow, cherry-sized fruit that is all wrapped up in
a parchment like husk. The ground cherry is an annuyal that is grown
exactly like garden tomatoes and bears prolifically. Sources for this and
the husk tomatoes following are Burgess, Farmer, Jung, and Gurney.
Physalis Ixocarpa. The tomatillo, Mexican ground cherry, jamberry.
Though it is a taller plant, 3 to 4 feet high, and yields larger fruit, up
to an inch in diameter, the tomatillo is cultivated exactly the same as
the ground cherry above and used in the same way. The tomatillo fruit,
however, completely fills its husk and often bursts, revealing the ripe
fruit; thus it is more difficult to remove the sticky fruit from the husk,
though this can be done by soaking the husk in water.
Physalis Peruviana. The Peruvian cherry or Cape gooseberry. Another
husk tomato, but one that is treated as a tender perennial; that is, it
can be grown outdoors when temperatures don’t fall below 45*F. or grown
inside a greenhouse or sunny window during the winter and transplanted
outside again in the spring. Otherwise it should be cultivated the same as
the above husk tomatoes. It bears cherry-sized fruits that are easily
removed from the deep-gold husks.
The Golden Berry. An interrelated cross of forms of Physalis that
is the newest kind of husk tomato, first introduced in America by
England’s Thompson & Morgan Inc., in 1976. Golden Berry is cultivated
exactly like other husk tomatoes, but yields up to four pounds of
juicy-sweet fruit a plant.
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