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Botanical Name: Solanum scabrum
Species: S. scabrum
Synonyms: S. intrusum. S. melanocerasum. All. S. scabrum.
Common Name: Garden Huckleberry
Habitat: The origin of the species is uncertain, although Linnaeus attributed it to Africa, but it also occurs in North America, and is naturalized in many countries. In Africa it is cultivated as a leaf vegetable and for dye from the berries. It grows in cultivated bed.
Solanum scabrum is an annual or short-lived perennial herb to 1 m tall, hairless or sparsely hairy. The leaves are usually ovate, 7–12 cm long and 5–8 cm wide, with petioles 1.5–7 cm long. The inflorescence is simple or sometimes branched with 9–12 flowers. The white corolla is stellate, 15–20 mm diam., and sometimes tinged purple and with yellow/green basal star. The berries are globular, 10–17 mm diam., purple-black. The seeds are 1.8–2.2 mm long, pale or stained purple.
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It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.
Succeeds in most soils. Dislikes shade. Caterpillars and slugs are particularly fond of this plant and can totally destroy it. This is a cultivated form of S. nigrum, grown for its edible fruit. There is at least one named form. See notes about possible toxicity at the top of this page. There is some disagreement among taxonomists as to the correct name of this plant. It is also listed as S. melanocerasum. Grows well with clover. Does not grow well with wormwood or white mustard and, when these plants are growing Closely related to S. nigra, they increase its content of toxic alkaloids.
Seed – sow spring in situ. The seed can also be sown in a greenhouse during the spring if required since this will normally produce larger crops of fruit. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant out in late spring.
Edible Parts: Fruit; Leaves.
Solanum scabrum is grown as an edible leaf crop in Africa. It is the most intensively cultivated species for leaf cropping within the Solanum nigrum complex, and as such has undergone genetic selection by farmers for leaf size and other characteristics.
Fruit – cooked.. Used in preserves, jams and pies. A pleasant musky taste. Only the fully ripe fruits should be used, the unripe fruits contain the toxin solanine. Often cooked with some baking soda first in order to remove any bitterness. The fruit contains about 2.5% protein, 0.6% fat, 5.6% carbohydrate, 1.2% ash. The fruit is up to 12mm in diameter. Young leaves and new shoots – raw or cooked as a potherb or added to soups.
Antiperiodic; Antiphlogistic; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Febrifuge; Narcotic; Purgative.
The whole plant is antiperiodic, antiphlogistic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, febrifuge, narcotic, purgative and sedative. It is harvested in the autumn when both flowers and fruit are upon the plant, and is dried for later use. Use with caution, see notes above on toxicity. The leaves, stems and roots are used in the treatment of cancerous sores, leucoderma and wounds. Extracts of the plant are analgesic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and vasodilator. The plant has been used in the manufacture of locally analgesic ointments and the juice of the fruit has been used as an analgesic for toothaches.
In Africa a stocky form of Solanum scabrum is cultivated as a dye crop using the ripe berries.
Known Hazards: There is a lot of disagreement over whether or not the leaves or fruit of this plant are poisonous. Views vary from relatively poisonous to perfectly safe to eat. The plant is cultivated as a food crop, both for its fruit and its leaves, in some parts of the world and it is probably true to say that toxicity can vary considerably according to where the plant is grown and the cultivar that is being grown. The unripe fruit contains the highest concentration of toxins