Discovered and named by French botanist Michel Felix Dunal, Litchi Tomatoes are large, low-maintenance plants originating in South America. Morelle is French for nightshade and Balbis denotes the region of discovery. Cultivated in European gardens as early as the 1700s, they are grown for their unique berries that provide a great natural source of vitamin C, β-carotene, and anti-oxidants.
A member of the nightshade family, start seeds like you do tomatoes: start indoors 6 – 8 weeks before last frost to transplant seedlings; or, direct sow seeds when soil temperatures remain consistently above 60° F / 16° C. Seeds are slow to germinate and seedlings grow slowly at first.
Robust bushes easily reach 5 foot / 1.5 metres. Sprawling branches are covered in spines that require care when handling. Plants prefer full-sun and dry, loamy soil. Size and prickles make the plant a good hedge plant.
Clusters of large starry white flowers give way to uniquely flavored, sweet, slightly tapered berries that are medium sized, red on the outside and yellow-orange inside. Berries grow inside a spiny, green husk that browns and shrivels as the fruit matures. Litchi Tomatoes are ripe when they are easily removed from the stem. If there is resistance, the berry isn't ready. We use tongs to help navigate the thorns. Eaten fresh, the seedy berries have a mouth feel of raspberries. They are delicious in jams, tarts and pies.
Disease resistant; Drought tolerant when established; Frost tolerant to 25° F / -3° C; Highly attractive to tomato hornworms, Colorado potato beetles, and nematodes.
Seed saving: Squish mature fruits in a shallow bowl of water. Seeds will drop from fruits. Carefully drain off water and flesh, keeping seeds at the bottom of the bowl, rinse well and allow to dry. Label and store seeds in a cool, dry location until ready to plant.