Monday, 22 December 2008

Kangaroo Apples

Judy asked for more information about
the Kangaroo Apples solanum aviculare.

I'm not sure why they have gained the name Kangaroo Apple as they neither look nor taste like apples and Kangaroos don't eat them at all. rolleyes

According to Tim Low's Wild Food Plants of Australia book the fruits aren't very tasty at all...in fact unless they are very ripe the solanine in the fruit is mildly poisonous. He describes the fruit as having a sickly sweet pulp that leaves a bitter after taste. The fruit quality can vary from year to year even on the same plant.

question So why do I grow it? question

It grows into a very attractive shrub, although it doesn't live for more than about five years. It is a source of food for the chickens that grows very quickly to provide them with shade. It is listed in Alanna Moore's Backyard Poultry - Naturally book on her Poultry Plant Profiles.

The plant is not fussy about soil type and is said to be tolerant of torrential rain, drought, frost and heat.

I've heard that some people make chutneys from the fruit but I never seem to get enough to try. This is due to the other reason I grow it...the native birds here love the fruit and so I let them have it all as long as they leave my fruit trees alone.
The birds tend to drop a few and the seeds of these sprout up after a good rain, then I can dig these up to get new plants...and weed out the rest.

Tim Low's book also mentions that these plants are "farmed in the (former) Soviet Union and Hungary is farmed for the alkaloid (solanine), which is extracted from the leaves to make contraceptive pills".

So apart from those countries mentioned in Tim Low's book I don't know if it is grown overseas. It is also native to parts of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Considering it's lack of cultural requirements it could become quite an environmental weed when grown out of it's natural home...in fact many farmers here don't like it and remove it because the sheep will graze the leaves resulting in poisoning from the solanine. eek

Seen here as the centre pieces of my double herb spiral they grew rapidly to provide shade for the herbs below but after reaching a certain height were blown over during a wind storm. sad

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