|Solanum muricatum subsp. var.||Pepino Dulce, Pepino, Melon Shrub, Pear Melon|
Growth Habit: Pepino dulce is a small, unarmed, herbaceous plant or bush with a woody base and fibrous roots. Growth is erect or ascending to about 3 feet high and several feet across. It is similar in these respects to a small tomato vine, and like the tomato may need staking or other support.
Foliage: The bright green leaves are sparsely covered with very small hairs. In appearance the pepino dulce is much like a potato plant, but the leaves may take many forms--simple and entire, lobed, or divided into leaflets.
Flowers: The small flowers are blue, violet-purple or white marked with purple, and are similar in form to unopened potato flowers. The pepino dulce is deemed to be parthenocarpic but a much heavier crop results from self-pollination or cross-pollination. The plants will not set fruit until the night temperatures are above 65° F.
Fruit: The fruit also show considerable diversity in size and shape. In the areas of its origin there are small oblong types with many seeds, while others are pear or heart-shaped with few or many seeds. Still others are round, slightly larger than a baseball and completely seedless. The colors also vary--completely purple, solid green or green with purple stripes, or cream colored with or without purple stripes. The fruit of cultivars grown in this country are usually round to egg-shaped, about 2 to 4 inches long, with some growing up to 6 inches. The skin is typically yellow or purplish green, often with numerous darker streaks or stripes. The flesh is greenish to white and yellowish-orange. Better quality fruit is moderately sweet, refreshing and juicy with a taste and aroma similar to a combination of cantaloupe and honeydew melon. In poor varieties there can be an unpleasant "soapy" aftertaste. The fruit matures 30 to 80 days after pollination.
Harvest: Individual fruits should not be picked until they are completely mature to assure the highest flavor and sugar content. Different cultivars vary, but the ground color of many mature fruits is somewhat yellow to light orange. Ripe fruit also bruises easily and requires careful handling. Such fruit should store well for 3 to 4 weeks at around 38° F under relatively high humidity. Fruit destined for distant markets would need to be picked earlier just before full ripeness. As it turns out this happens to be a good time to pick the fruit. Studies have shown that fruit in the middle degree of ripeness has the best performance in cold storage. Over-ripe fruit suffers most from physiological problems such as internal breakdown, discoloration and dehydration. If harvested too early, insufficient ripening and development of flavor and sweetness can result. The pepino dulce is commonly chilled and eaten fresh much like a cantaloupe or other melon.
Adaptation: The pepino dulce is a fairly hardy plant that grows at altitudes ranging from near sea level to 10,000 ft. in its native regions. However it does best in a warm, relatively frost-free climate. The plant will survive a low temperature of 27 to 28° F if the freeze is not prolonged, but may loose many of its leaves. It can be grown in many parts of central and southern California, although it does best in locations away from the coast and is not well suited for hot, interior gardens. Pepino dulce has been grown and has fruited in the milder areas of northern California (Sunset Climate Zones 16 and 17). The plant is small enough to be grown satisfactorily in a container.
|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Solanum muricatum, Ait. (S. guatemalense, Hort.). Pepino. Melon Pear. Melon Shrub. An erect spineless bushy herb or subshrub 2-3 ft. high, the branches often with rough warty excrescences, and usually glabrous or nearly so: lvs. entire or with slightly undulate margins, rarely ternate, oblong-lanceolate, or ovate, tapering to the more or less margined petiole and also toward the more or less obtuse or sometimes acute apex, the surface sparingly soft-pubescent: fls. in a long-stalked cluster, rather small, the corolla bright blue, deeply 5-lobed, puberulent on the outer surface, inclined or nodding: fr. ovoid or egg-shaped, long-stalked, drooping, yellow overlaid with splashes of violet-purple, 4-6 in. long when cult., flesh yellow and seedless under cult. Said to be a native of Peru and cult. in other parts of Trop. Amer. at temperate elevations.—This plant attracted some attention in this country about 25 years ago. It appears to have been intro. into the U. S. from Guatemala in 1882 by Gustav Eisen. The fr. is aromatic, tender, and juicy, and in taste suggests an acid eggplant. In a drawer or box, the fr. may be kept till midwinter. In the N. the seasons are too short to allow the fr. to mature in the open, unless the, plants are started very early. The pepino is properly a cool-season plant, and when grown in pots in a cool or intermediate house will set its frs. freely. It is readily prop. by means of cuttings of the growing shoots. The plant will withstand a little frost.
Location: The plant likes a sunny or semi-shaded, frost-free location, sheltered from strong winds. It does well planted next to a south-facing wall or in a patio.
Soil: The pepino dulce does best in a fertile (but not too fertile), free draining, neutral soil ( pH of 6.5-7.5). It is not as tolerant of salinity as the tomato. Mulching will help suppress weed growth.
Irrigation: The pepino dulce is quite sensitive to moisture stress as their root systems spread out and are quite shallow. Irrigation techniques are thus crucial for the health of the plants as well as for pollination, fruit set and quality of the fruit crop. Some growers feel that overhead sprinkling may even favor increased pollination. Microjets appear to deliver moisture better than trickle irrigation.
Fertilization: The plants should be fertilized in a manner similar to a tomato plant, mixing in some well-rotted manure to the plant site several weeks in advance and supplementing with a 5-10-10 NPK granular fertilizer as needed. Soils that are too rich produce vigorous vegetative growth which can lead to reduced fruit set and quality, plus an increase in pest problems.
Pruning: Pruning of the pepino dulce is not needed unless the plant is being trained to a trellis. In this case treat it as one would a tomato vine. Opening the the fruits to light increases the purple striping and improves the general appearance.
Frost Protection: In areas where frost may be a problem, providing the plant with some overhead protection or planting them next to a wall or a building may be sufficient protection. Individual plants are small enough to be fairly easily covered during cold snaps by placing plastic sheeting, etc. over a frame around them. Plastic row covers will also provide some frost protection for larger plantings. Potted specimens can be moved to a frost-secure area.
The pepino dulce can be grown from seeds, but is usually propagated vegetatively from cuttings. Three to five inch stem cuttings are taken leaving 4 or 5 leaves at the upper end. Treatment with rooting hormones will help increase uniformity in rooting and development of heavier root systems. The cuttings are then placed in a fast-draining medium and placed under mist or otherwise protected from excessive water loss. Bottom heat also is helpful. With the right conditions most of the cuttings quickly root and are ready for potting up in individual containers. Rooted cuttings set out after the danger of frost (February to April) should be large enough to start blooming shortly after planting. The fruit will then have time to grow and ripen during the warm summer months. When planted out, a spacing of about 2 to 3 ft. between bushes is recommended.
Pests and diseases
The plant is affected by many of the diseases and pests that afflict tomatoes and other solanaceous plants, including bacterial spot, anthracnose, and blights caused by Alternaria spp. and Phytophthora spp. The various pests include spider mite, cut worm, hornworm, leaf miner, flea beetle, Colorado potato beetle and others. Fruit fly is a serious pest where they are a problem. Greenhouse grown plants are particularly prone to attack by spider mites, white flies and aphids.
- Colossal - Very large fruit, mostly cream-colored with light markings of purple. Very juicy, very sweet, no soapiness, good melon-like flavor (especially when ripened on the vine). Self-fertile, but yields larger fruit with cross-pollination.
- Ecuadorian Gold - A market cultivar in South America that produces good crops of pear-like fruits over a long growing season. The fruit has an attractive color, is well-marked and holds well on the plant. Self-fertile, but should be thinned for better fruit size.
- El Camino - Released in New Zealand in 1982 from material collected in Chile. Medium to large, egg-shaped fruit with regular purple stripes. Sometimes produces off-flavored fruits identifiable by their brownish-green color. One of two leading commercial cultivars in New Zealand.
- Miski Prolific - Originated in San Jose, Calif. by Nancy Garrison, as a seedling of the New Zealand cultivar Miski. Fruit creamy white with a faint salmon glow, lightly striped with purple. Flesh deep salmon. Flavor rich, sweet and aromatic, with no soapiness. Seeds few or none. Matures early. Strong growing plant, bears well without pollination.
- New Yorker - Introduced into California by Vincent Rizzo of New York state from material obtained in Chile. Medium to large, oval fruit, apex pointed. Skin smooth golden yellow when mature, prominently striped with deep purple. Flesh firm, juicy, yellow-orange. Flavor sweet, virtually free of soapiness. Seeds few. Keeps for several weeks. Upright growth habit. Sets fruit well without cross pollination.
- Rio Bamba - Originated in Vista, Calif by Patrick J. Worley. Named after the city in Ecuador where the original plant was collected. Medium-sized fruit, strongly striped with purple. Flavor excellent. Vining growth habit, making an excellent climber or a hanging basket plant. Dark-green leaves with reddish-purple veins, purple stems. Flowers darker than normal, making an excellent display.
- Temptation - Introduced by the Nurserymen's Association of Western Australia. Large, high quality fruit.
- Toma - Introduced into New Zealand from Chile in 1979, released there in 1983. Medium-sized, oval fruit, 4 inches long, 3 inches in diameter, apex pointed, shoulder well rounded. Skin smooth, cream-colored when ripe, prominently striped with dark purple. Flesh firm, light cream in color, very juicy. Flavor sweet and refreshing, with ho hint of soapiness. Seeds usually present. Keeping quality excellent. An important export cultivar in Chile.
- Vista - Originated in Vista, Calif. by Patrick J. Worley. A cross of Rio Bamba and a seedling from South America. Medium-sized fruits have good flavor and aroma. Upright, fairly compact plant of great vigor, self-fertile and heavy yielding. Bright green, 3 inch long leaves.
- CRFG: Pepino Dulce
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