Look at Love Apples But Don’t Eat Them?

An old-fashioned name for the tomato is love apple. When used by gardeners today, however, it is much more probable that they are referring to a fruit that provides “food for the soul” instead of the stomach.

Delicious as it appears, the love apple is certainly not edible, for it consists almost entirely of tough skin and seeds. On the other hand, it is very useful in providing color to winter bouquets.

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This decorative fruit, listed as Solarium aculeatissimum, is a striking rich orangey-red. The stout, satiny skin surrounds numerous pepper-like seeds, thinner than tomato seeds. The fruits vary from one-quarter inches to almost two inches in diameter.

Growing Love Apple

Love apples can be grown from seed as easily as tomato or pepper plants and in a similar way. A rather long growing season is necessary, though, or the fruits will not ripen properly before frost. Plant the seeds in a flat in February or early March. Six or a dozen plants should provide all the fruits one could use and still have some to give away.

Instead of preparing a flat or flower pot, a few seeds may be scattered around a house plant growing in a sunny window. Love apples do not grow spindly as quickly as some seedlings. As soon as they develop their true leaves, they can be transplanted to individual paper pots.

Grow Like Tomatoes and Peppers

Like other indoor-started plants, they need to be accustomed to the outdoor air gradually. Set them outside on warm sunny days in a protected place out of the wind, bringing them inside each evening. They can be set in the garden at the same time as tomatoes and peppers.

The plant on which the lovely, satiny fruits appear is in itself anything but lovely. The stems are closely beset with spines, the leaves likewise are prickly and the white blossoms are small. It is a plant for the rear section of the vegetable garden since it has no landscape value. Anyone overzealous with the hoe would most certainly yank out “those pesky weeds” unless forewarned.

More fruits develop if the plants are given plenty of space, so place them at least two feet apart. They may grow 30″ inches high. Cultivate as you would tomatoes.

Cut Things Up

If the fruits seem slow in ripening after reaching full size, cut off some of the upper leaves. A light frost is not harmful, but cut the stems just as soon as the fruit has colored well so that later frosts are not injurious. 

For ease in handling the stems, wear leather gloves. Then remove most of the prickly leaves, before cutting the branches, to bring them inside where they can be hung upside down until wanted.

In using the fruits decoratively, evergreen sprigs of various kinds can be fastened close to their stems with dark thread to make material for sprays, wreaths, and vases. The love apples themselves may also be picked and arranged in howls with gourds to give bright touches of color.

44659 by Olga Rolf Tiemann