Plant profiles: Pepino

This is #2 in the plant profiles series which deals with unusual edibles not generally available in the supermarket. I’m just enjoying three large, delicious pepinos harvested last week, so this is a timely post. It’s basically the same post which I wrote some time ago, with a few additions.

The pepino (Solanum muricatum) is a low-growing shrub in the same plant family as the tomato and the potato. The fruits are usually lemon-sized but can be smaller or larger. The flesh starts off pale green and ripens to pale orange, often with attractive purple stripes. The texture and flavour is similar to rockmelon, only not as strong. The skin is tough-ish and I usually peel them. They’re extremely juicy and easy to propagate and grow. I’ve found flavour can vary between plants when grown from seed. The fruits I’m eating at the moment are particularly good, so I’m going to take cuttings from this plant and plant more out.

I was given a branch of a pepino plant by a friend many years ago when I was just starting my food garden. Her plant had never been cut back and was sprawling over several metres. A huge network of bare branches with leaves only at the ends. I cut it into 6 pieces and put them up as cuttings. They grew roots in just over two weeks and eventually I planted them all out. They flower in spring and autumn for me and set a lot of fruit. Because they’re low-growing, the weight of the fruits tends to cause them to lie on the ground where they’re liable to attack by any number of critters, so keeping them up off the soil is advisable. I gradually thin the small fruit and leave a few of the best.

They’re easy to grow from seed. The seed needs the same conditions as tomatoes, i.e. sow and plant out during the warmer weather. The bushes are perennial, but may have a short lifespan in some soils, so I keep new plants coming along. I prune them back when they get straggly. They haven’t been particularly drought-tolerant for me…I’ve lost them over dry summers if I don’t keep them watered. They appear to have shallow root systems.

Because I have problems with rabbits eating the fruit at ground level, last year I planted one in a wicking box up on the deck. I figured the constant moisture would be an asset, the fruit could lie on the deck without getting chewed by things that go bump in the mulch and (so far) the rabbits haven’t learned to climb stairs. It’s done well and is flowering at the moment and setting fruit:

saturday 001

saturday 002

The pepino hails from South America. It’s a useful addition to the permaculture garden and would be a good understorey plant in a food forest (if you don’t have rabbits!).

7 Responses to “Plant profiles: Pepino”

  1. narf77 Says:

    The one good thing about the plethora of feral cats that seethe around Serendipity Farm on any given day is a dearth of both rabbits and snakes. Everywhere around us people are complaining about snake invasions thanks to an overly wet lead up to spring and rabbits are eating people out of house and garden but we haven’t got either…EVERYTHING has good and bad points…lesson learned! A friend gave me a pepino branch and you are right, they are easy to root. I just left my cuttings in water and they went mental but I didn’t get them planted out and they stagnated along with their water. Now I have a fantastic big fully enclosed veggie garden I could sure do with some more cuttings but I fear my friends pepino has probably succumbed to heavy frost by now. I must see about sourcing some more cutting material. Another excellent post Bev. I have 2 yacon that I am just about to plant out in the garden that look very promising thanks to your last informative post. I love learning from your experience, you are a great instructor 🙂


    • foodnstuff Says:

      I think I would rather have rabbits and snakes than feral cats!!!

      Will take some cuttings and when they strike, investigate how I can post them to you.


      • narf77 Says:

        That would be AWESOME Bev :). I reckon I could grow them all over the place here. My nan had bushes in her garden back in the late 70’s when I lived in W.A. and adored them. The slugs and snails kept pilfering hers…seems there is always something “else” out there that would like to take advantage of all of our hard work and careful planning :).


  2. MaidenFarmer Says:

    Really useful post THANKYOU! I always assumed that oepino would be too tropical, but understanding they are shrubs like tomatoes much it much easier to have a go. Must suggest to Daleys they het you to write their plant profiles- very very encouraging thanks


  3. narf77 Says:

    Holy CRAP this is deep!


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