Eating Naranjilla – Learn How To Use Naranjilla Fruit

Eating Naranjilla – Learn How To Use Naranjilla Fruit

By: Amy Grant

Relatively unknown to most people, the naranjilla isindigenous to higher elevations in the South American countries of Colombia,Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. If visiting these countries, it is highlyrecommended that you try eating naranjilla. Each culture has a different way ofusing naranjilla fruit; all are delicious. How do the locals use naranjilla?Read on to find out about naranjilla fruit uses.

Information About Using Naranjilla

If you are fluent in Spanish, then you recognize that ‘naranjilla’means little orange. This nomenclature is somewhat flawed, however, in thatnaranjilla is not related in any way to citrus. Instead, naranjilla(Solanum quitoense) is related to theeggplantand tomato;in fact, the fruit looks very similar to a tomatilloon the inside.

The outside of the fruit is covered with sticky hairs. Asthe fruit ripens, it turns from a bright green to orange. Once the fruit isorange, it is ripe and ready to pick. Ripe naranjilla’s little hairs are rubbedoff and the fruit is washed and then it is ready to eat.

How to Use Naranjilla

The fruit can be eaten fresh but the skin is a bit tough, somany people simply cut it in half and then squeeze the juice into their mouthsand then discard the rest. The flavor is intense, tangy and citrusy rather likea combination of a lemon and pineapple.

With its flavor profile, it’s no wonder that the mostpopular way of eating naranjilla is to juice it. It makes excellent juice. Tomake juice, the hairs are rubbed off and the fruit washed. The fruit is thencut in half and the pulp squeezed into a blender. The resulting green juice isthen strained, sweetened and served over ice. Naranjilla juice is also producedcommercially and then canned or frozen.

Other naranjilla fruit uses include the making of sherbet, acombination of corn syrup, sugar, water, lime juice and naranjilla juice thatis partially frozen and then beaten to a froth and refrozen.

Naranjilla pulp, including seeds, is also added to ice creammix or made into a sauce, baked into pie, or used in other desserts. The shellsare stuffed with a combination of banana and other ingredients and then baked.

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Naranjilla Plant Information

The naranjilla plant is an attractive bush or small tree, growing to 8 feet tall. The “trunk” is a thick stem. It is covered with spines in the wild but many cultivars are spineless. The narajilla blossoms are striking. You’ll see five white petals on top with imposing stamen that are marigold yellow. Under these are bright purple petals. The flower’s fragrance is appealing as well. Leaves grow in a deep purple. They are heart shaped and grow quite large over the life of the plant—up to 24 inches long. Their texture is soft and wooly.

Most gardeners cultivate the naranjilla plant for its round fruit. The fruit is not large, growing only 2 or 3 inches in diameter. The leathery peel covering each naranjilla turns orange as the fruit matures. Until then, the fruit is covered in thick brown hairs, not unlike kiwi fruit. The fruit flesh is yellowy orange, and contains a ring of juicy pulp dotted with thin seeds.


I love lulo. We have grown them once before, and they flowered but didn't fruit, then succumbed to nematodes after we moved them from huge pots and planted them directly in the ground. But you can buy good quality frozen pulp at some central/south american groceries. The quality can vary, and some brands are awful, but La Nuestra, SAS, and maybe Goya, are pretty reliable. Still, although the pulp is great for making juice, it's not the same as eating the fresh fruit.


I grow them as decorative annuals every year here in the central valley. They don't survive the winter, we get frost here. While they flower mightily, they never set fruit. I'm thinking that it's too hot at night for fruit set, although they dont set fruit even in the fall after the hot weather ends.


I don't grow it in CA, I grow it in FL. I get TONS of fruit on it down here. It is somewhat difficult because many pests seem to like it-whiteflies especially.

I find the fruit tasty, but very seedy. Do I just have a bad cultivar? Are some less seedy than others? I grew som from seed last year, hoping to get a better quality fruit this year.


It is my first year trying to grow naranjilla. So far I've been lucky, they are growing nicely. I plan on keeping them in pots for the nematode reason and I've read at 85F the plant "collapses". Our summer gets to 110+ and many days above 100. My hope is when this happens or at any sign of distress, to move them inside the house into a sunny window. When I went to the Huntington BG, in their new cloudforest area, I think I saw one of these growing, could not find a label. Pretty sure it was a naranjilla, its environment was cool and humid, perhaps the hummidity explains fruit set in FL and not CA?

here is a pic of one of my plants, love the purple,


This is the evidence for good things coming to people who wait--this original post was a year and a half ago!

My hairy funny little plants just suddenly sprouted from seed many, many weeks after they were sown. Hope they follow the Florida poster and actually produce fruit!


I grew naranjillas last year and am this year.

Last year, I had the highly spiked variety, that I believe is hardier in the wild but makes fruit with many seeds that is inferior to the spineless variety, which I am growing this year.

I started them inside under a 600 watt metal halide light around mid-October, as it can take 6-9 months for them to start flowering from seed. Mine took 6 this year.

A late april frost damaged and eventually defoliated them, but they recovered. The stem did not die.

I live in Northwest Arkansas, and its been 105 for a couple weeks previous, but now it has begun to cool down. They have shown heat damage along the veins starting from the petiole but maintained growth, albeit malformed. With the cooler weather they have begun to come around.

Flea beetles are a major problem for me. They love these more than anything else in the garden. Next year I plan to build a shade tent to combat them and heat.

I believe some may not set fruit, if the proper pollinator is not present. I have only seen Carpenter Bees pollinating mine. However, with the late frost that my land had this spring, I believe the carpenter bees were effected, as I saw them almost daily in my yard pre-April-frost, and none post-April-frost. So this year I have pollinated by hand with little avail, I managed to set 6 fruit among 9 plants, because it is difficult, at least for me, to find and separate the pollen grains from the poricidal (pollen released through pores) anthers, and, furthermore, Naranjillas are andromonoecious, meaning only some of the flowers are female and will make fruit. These are the ones with longer styles. Typically, I find 1 or 2 in an inflorescence of 10 to 14 .

The fruit takes around 2 months to ripen from set. My 6 have about another 2 weeks.

I believe in addition to carpenter bees, bumblebees might work, if they can be attracted to the flowers, by pruning the plants heavily to make it more wide open, otherwise I don't think the bumble bees would want to fly into the plants interior.

Watch the video: Naranjilla Plant Grow Journal #2 Lulo Fruit