Kangaroo apple (Solanum laciniatum) is another in a line of marginally edible, strange solanums that I am growing this year. I say “marginally edible” because the fruit is edible when ripe and poisonous when green. Still, I’m not convinced it’s worth eating. Edible and worth eating are two different things entirely. Morelle de balbis fruit is edible, but is it worth growing if food is your priority? Not so much. Even still, I am growing that again this year, too.
The kangaroo apple is a subtropical plant that needs warm weather and a long season to produce fruit. I started my seeds very early — as early as January or February. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which and I lost my original tag.
TIP: I write the sow date on the tags when I sow seeds as a way to track each plant’s progress later on. This is especially helpful when growing long season plants like kangaroo apple. If they don’t set fruit in time then I can gauge how much earlier I need to start the following year in order to be successful.
If you’re interested in learning more about this plant, there’s some information on the Australian National Botanic Gardens website and through Tradewinds Fruit.
I purchased my seeds from Solana Seeds in Quebec.
I’ll update you on the progress of this plant as the season develops. I’m very curious about the fruit.
This pretty blue flower is shoofly aka Apple of Peru (Nicandra physalodes), a strange solanum that I am growing for the first time this year.
I purchased the seeds last year at the Montreal Seedy Saturday but was unable to grow them as I quickly ran out of space. I’m STILL trying to find space for some of the seed I bought at that event. This year I wanted to make it a priority and sowed the seeds indoors quite early to ensure they would be a nice size by late spring. As you can see, they are already flowering.
Homegrown Mosquito Repellent?
Besides the beautiful blue flowers and Chinese Lantern-like seed pods, Nicandra is often grown for its insect repellent properties. Apparently people rub the dried seed pods, seeds, and chafe on their skin to ward off biting mosquitos. If this really works it could be a bit of revelation for me as I do not like using Deet and I am the first person to get bit (and viciously) no matter the size of the group I am with. Despite the fact that it is natural, I think I will do some more research into the plant’s chemical components before I go rubbing it into my skin or on my hands and face. If you’ve had any experience using this plant as a repellent please weigh in through the comments. I’d love to hear of your experiences.
Until I’ve done my homework and am thoroughly satisfied of its safety, I’m resigned to happily appreciate the look of the plant in the garden. As an added bonus (and despite its reputation) the flowers are attracting pollinators like this wee hoverfly. And I am in favour of anything that will bring in pollinators to our previously barren backyard.
Warning: Nicandra is a self-seeding menace and extremely invasive. I plan to keep on top of deadheading as I do not need the added hassle of weeding hundreds of seedlings next spring.
Furthermore, despite its resemblance to edible solanums such as ground cherry, Nicandra is NOT EDIBLE. The fact that it is considered a poison is one reason why I am not jumping to rub it all over myself until I learn more.
To review: here’s what they looked like a week and two weeks after I sowed the seeds back in January.
It’s hard to believe, but three short months ago the lithops seedlings were only just beginning to show their distinct colouration and patterns. Now look at them!
This unknown red variety bloomed a few weeks ago. I bought it at a garden shop in early spring, but it did not come with an accurate tag. I almost didn’t buy it as I was saving space for ‘Black Barlow’ a variety I had been coveting for ages. But wouldn’t you know it, I finally came upon the variety in bloom a few weeks ago and it was too purple for my taste. The photos lied!
A gift from my friend Barry, these white flowers have little green spots on some of the tips that make it just a little bit extra special.
In addition to transplants (there are more that haven’t yet bloomed), I also grew a few aquilegia varieties from seed. They are tiny little things right now and it will be another year before they bloom.
How is it that spring isn’t technically through, and I am already anticipating next year?
Back in late April I mentioned our plans to become self-sufficient in salad fixings. I said, “Starting next month (or so), I don’t want to buy a single head of lettuce ever again, if I can help it.”
A month or so later and we are on the way. Over the last few weeks we’ve harvested bits and pieces here and there, but today I am harvesting the first two of eight fully formed heads of lettuce from the raised bed that is dedicated to greens. Unfortunately, I can’t take full credit for these plants as I bought them as transplants and did not sow them from seed. We were so behind this year between travel, bad weather, and building the garden that I decided to buy a few to give us a push.
Meanwhile, the recycling bin salad garden is coming along swimmingly. Changing the clamps kept the squirrels out and we haven’t had a problem since. Eventually the greens grew big enough that I was able to remove the chicken wire without any further digging. Unfortunately, I had to resow some seed after the squirrel digging debacle and this resulted in a very tightly sown bin. I’ve been carefully removing seedlings from the bin and transplanting them elsewhere in the garden (as well as pots) to make use of the extra plants and provide some space for those that are still in the bin.
We now have several lettuce plants on the go all around the garden, tucked in underneath and around this and that, as well as in the raised bed. I have also planted several mustard greens and lots of edible flowers throughout.
We are coming into a windfall of salad fixings. For the time being, I’ve bought my last bag of lettuce from the market. I just hope the summer heat doesn’t come on too strong, too quickly!