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Solanum aethiopicum - L.

Common Name Mock Tomato, Ethiopian nightshade
Family Solanaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Although no specific mention of toxicity has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where many if not all the members have poisonous leaves and sometimes also the unripe fruits.
Habitats Not known
Range The original range is uncertain.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Solanum aethiopicum Mock Tomato, Ethiopian nightshade

Solanum aethiopicum Mock Tomato, Ethiopian nightshade


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Solanum aethiopicum is a deciduous Shrub growing to 2.5 m (8ft 2in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. It is in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Shoots
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked[299 ]. It can be cooked when immature or when fully ripe[1 , 2 , 46 , 105 , 299 ]. The unripe, bitter fruits are eaten like aubergine (Solanum melongena), typically fried[1438 ]. The fruit can be used like aubergine (Solanum melongena) as a vegetable or as a flavouring for other foods[183 ]. We have only grown this plant once, the fruits were not at all pleasant, with a distinct bitterness[K ]. The large fruits of cultivar-groups Gilo and Kumba are cooked in stews or even eaten raw[317 ]. The orange-red fruit is about 25mm in diameter[200 , 301 ]. Leaves and young shoots[299 ]. The very young leaves are said to be edible when cooked[177 ] though they have a bitter flavour[183 ]. Cooked as spinach[317 ]. The young shoots are stripped of their numerous flowers and buds, and then finely cut for use in soups[301 ]. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Carminative  Hypotensive  Sedative

The roots and fruits are used as a carminative and sedative, and to treat colic and high blood pressure[299 , 617 ]. The crushed and macerated fruits are used as an enema[299 ]. The leaf juice is used as a sedative to treat uterine complaints[299 ]. An extract of the leaves in alcohol is used as a sedative, anti-emetic and to treat tetanus after an abortion[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Plant breeding  Rootstock

Some cultivars (Aculeatum Group) are occasionally used as a rootstock for tomato and eggplant[299 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the moist tropics, it can also be grown as an annual crop in the temperate zone as long as it can be given a growing season of at least 4 months. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 - 30°c, but can tolerate 10 - 40°c[418 ]. It is not tolerant of frosts[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,200 - 1,600mm, but tolerates 800 - 4,000mm[418 ]. An easily grown plant, it succeeds in most moderately fertile, well-drained soils when growing in a sunny position[1 ]. A soil too rich in nitrogen will encourage leaf growth at the expense of flowering, and so will reduce the yield of fruit[418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 7, tolerating 4.3 - 8.5[418 ]. Young plants grow rapidly and flowering starts from 40 - 100 days after sowing. As the first flowers are initiated, branching and subsequent production of smaller leaves occurs[299 ]. Growth and flowering may continue indefinitely, but are suppressed once sufficient fruits have set[299 ]. The preferred weight for fruits of Gilo Group and Kumba Group is 30 - 40g. One plant may produce from 500 g to about 8 kg of fruits, depending on the cultivar and growing conditions[299 ]. Without irrigation, yields are 5 - 8 t/ha, and with irrigation 12 - 20 t/ha. Improved cultivars grown under favourable conditions may yield 50 - 80 t/ha[299 ]. Fruits of Kumba Group have mean weights of 70 - 120 g, sometimes even over 200 g; yield is 10 - 20 t/ha[299 ]. Under good management, farmers growing cultivars of Shum Group can get up to 75 leaf bundles of 30 kg each per 100 m2. This means that the crop has a yield potential of 225 t/ha. The average leaf yield during the dry season for a once-over harvest, however, is only 30 t/ha[299 ]. This is a food crop that is difficult to characterize as a whole, with a great plasticity and grown in a variety of habitats ranging from dry rocky outcrops and grasslands to forests[308 ]. Because of their morphological diversity, various cultivars of S. Aethiopicum have previously been described as many different species, and have been confused with S. Incanum and other species. Four cultivar-groups are now recognised, as follows:- S. Aethiopicum Gilo Group. The fruits, which are like hens' eggs or many other shapes and sizes, and scarlet when ripe, are eaten unripe, cooked in stews or even raw[317 ]. Plants in this group thrive in full sun in woodland savannah on fairly deep and well-drained soils with pH 5.5 - 6.8, and in temperatures of 25 - 35°c during the day and 20 - 27°c at night[299 ]. S. Aethiopicum Shum Group. Grown in tropical Africa, especially in Cameroon and Uganda. The glabrous small-leaved shoots are cooked as spinach. This group thrives under warm, humid conditions and will drop their leaves when it gets dry. In Uganda they are grown in drying swamps during the dry season[299 ]. S. Aethiopicum Kumba Group. Grown in sub-Sahelian W Africa, especially Senegal, in the wet season. The large glabrous leaves are cooked as spinach: subsequently the large, sweet, ribbed fruits are eaten raw or cooked in stews[317 ]. This group thrives in very hot conditions, with temperatures up to 45°c during the day and air humidity sometimes as low as 20%, especially if they are irrigated[299 ]. S. Aethiopicum Aculeatum Group. These prickly ornamental plants with attractive but very bitter scarlet fruits possess some disease resistance so they are used for breeding and as rootstocks for S. Melongena in Japan[317 ]. There are some named varieties in in Shum and Gilo groups[300 ]. The bitter and small-fruited, prickly and hairy ancestor, S. Anguivi occurs throughout tropical Africa[317 ]. Slugs really love the young plants and will totally destroy them if given half a chance[K ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow in a sunny position in a sandy soil in a nursery seedbed or in containers. Germination takes 5 - 9 days for the Gilo and Shum Groups, but only 3 - 5 days for the Kumba Group, although the latter may show seed dormancy and tends to have few seeds per fruit[299 ]. Seedlings can be transplanted to the field after 30 - 35 days, when they have 5 - 7 leaves and are 15 - 20cm tall[299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

African scarlet eggplant, Azoko, Ethiopian eggplant, Garden egg, Gilo, Golden apple, Impwa, Kumba, Losuke, Love apple, Mock tomato, Nakasuga, Nakati, Ngogwe, Osun, Ruffed tomato, Tokalu, african aubergine, aubergine amère, bitter tomato, chinese scarlet eggplant, ethiopian eggplant, ethiopian nightshade, garden eggs, gilo, granadillo, jilo, kumba, meloncillo de olor, meloncillo del campo, mock plant, mock tomato, pocotillo, quillo, revienta caballo, röd aubergin, scarlet eggplant, shum, silverleaf nightshade, tomato-fruit eggplant, tutía enano.

Native Range

Coming Soon

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

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Solanum lyratum Perennial Climber2.0 -  LMHNM12 
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Solanum muricatumPepinoShrub1.0 8-11  LMHNM400
Solanum nigrumBlack Nightshade, Common Nightshade, Poisonberry, Black NightshadeAnnual0.6 0-0  LMHNDM222
Solanum paniculatumJurubeba, NightshadeShrub2.0 10-12 FLMHSNM040
Solanum phurejaPhureja, NightshadePerennial0.0 8-11  LMHSNM30 
Solanum piliferum Perennial0.0 -  LMHNM20 
Solanum pimpinellifoliumCurrant TomatoAnnual/Biennial1.0 10-12 FLMHNM422

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

Ian Keeling   Sat Jul 8 2006

Earlier this year I bought "aubergine" seeds from Thompson & Morgan. Research on the Internet has revealed this to be a variety of Solanum aethiopicum. A variety of this is widely grown in Brazil (apparently it was brought there from Africa with the slave trade). There the fruit is harvested young, long before it becomes ripe. Some consider it at its best when it is still yellow - not even green, let alone red, when it becomes far too bitter for most palates. If I get any edible fruit from my plants I'll add my personal experience of it.

Aberra Molla   Mon Jan 15 2007

Ethiopic.com Scientific and common names of some Ethiopian plants.

Rashidah Mubiru   Wed Nov 25 2009

solanum production in uganda and its varieties

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