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Pumpkin-on-a-stick

'Pumpkin-on-a-Stick' (Solanum aethiopicum)

‘Pumpkin-on-a-Stick’ (Solanum aethiopicum)

Solanum aethiopicum

Another ornamental crop harvested for its attractive fruit-bearing stems, this species is a relative of eggplant, and shares some of its diseases and insect pests.

Propagation:

  • Crop is raised from seeds in 72- to 128-cell trays.
  • Seed does not require light for germination, and should be covered with 1/4 in. of medium.
  • Transplant growth duration is about 6 weeks.

Growing:

  • Similar to ornamental pepper, the crop is mature in about 4 months after transplanting in a high tunnel.
  • At a 12 x 12 in. spacing, plants will have a stem length of 30 in., and will require staking or support to prevent bending down of the branches.
  • Plants are attractive to spider mites, which can cause defoliation unless controlled.
  • Stem yields are similar when pinched as when left unpinched.

Varieties:

  • We have tested only two varieties so far: a spiny, earlier variety with relatively thin, dark-red stems and orange fruits, and a sturdier, later spineless variety with green stems and darker red fruits.

Postharvest Handling:

  • Plants are grown until the fruits are fully colored, and then harvested either with fruit attached, or the fruits harvested and used separately as ‘miniature pumpkins’.
  • Defoliation is easier than with ornamental pepper because there are fewer, larger leaves.
  • Dried fruits retain color and shape for several months.

For additional information, see the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers listserv.

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