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Cultivation of Exotic Fruit

Sowing Seeds
Passiflora and Lemonade Berry seeds should be soaked for 24 hours in tepid water before sowing.

Pomegranate seeds require cold stratification before sowing: soak them in tepid water for 48 hours, and then sow the seeds into compost as above but place in the fridge for about a month. Following their 'fake winter' keep the seeds at 20C -25C.

Sow the seeds on top of a good quality seed or general purpose compost. Cover the seeds very lightly with fine compost or vermiculite. They can be sown in reasonably deep seed trays, straight into individual 3 inch pots (2 or 3 per pot - remove the weaker seedlings) or into rootrainers. Keep the compost just moist - don't let the top of the compost dry out too much, as this is a common cause of germination failure. Cut down on watering by covering the pot or tray with plastic film. If you have a heated propagator, use a temperature of 25C. You will need a minimum temperature of 22C for successful germination. They will germinate well in a warm room. Don't leave the seeds in direct sunlight as the heat generated may kill them. If you like you could also spray the surface with a dilute copper-based fungicide.

Feeding and Watering
Once they have sprouted, water the seedlings regularly, but don't let them become waterlogged as this encourages rot. Don't let seedlings dry out as they rarely recover at this stage. Larger plants should be watered regularly - allow the top cm of compost to dry out in between waterings.

Naranjilla are susceptible to root rot and should never be stood in water or allowed to become waterlogged.

Exotic fruit can be fed when bearing fruit. Use a high potash fertiliser such as a weak solution of organic tomato feed. Feed them no more than once per fortnight. You could add some Seaweed extract (without added fertiliser) to the water once a week. This toughens them up a little and improves disease resistance.

Passiflora and Lemonade Berry are vigorous vines and should be fed sparingly to avoid plants becoming too rampant!

Potting On Your Fruit Seedlings
When the seedlings have produced their first pair of proper leaves they can be potted on into individual 3 or 4-inch pots if grown in a seed tray. Use good quality potting compost and mix in some organic slow release fertiliser, according to the manufacturer's instructions. I use 2 parts peat free compost, 1 part coir (a peat substitute), plus a little additional organic fertiliser. To ensure good drainage you could also add perlite (good drainage is essential for
Naranjilla plants).

Pot the plants on again before they becomes root-bound (you'll see roots appearing through the holes in the bottom of the small pots). Stake if necessary, tying in stems with soft twine. Seedlings should be grown in good light.

Pepinos, Huckleberries and Cape Gooseberries should be planted a cm or two deeper each time they are potted on as they will produce new surface feeding roots.

Planting Out - Soil Preparation and Position
If planting outside or directly in greenhouse border prepare the soil in advance by digging in plenty of organic matter a month before planting. The idea is to increase the moisture retention of the soil. Make sure that plants have been allowed to acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 2-3 weeks before they are moved permanently outside. During this time gradually increase the amount of wind, sunshine and cooler temperatures that the plant experiences. Don't plant out until after all risk of frost has passed.

Lemonade Berries should be grown for at least 2 years in pots before planting out in full sun and acclimatising

Pepinos, Passiflora, Pomegranates, Huckleberries and Cape Gooseberries prefer a spot in full sun and plenty of moisture (but hate being waterlogged).

Naranjillas need light shade so don't place them where they will be in full sunlight.

Overwintering
Pepino and Passiflora leaves will be cut down by frost and any remaining fruit will be spoiled, but the rootstock may resprout in Spring if provided with a 6 inch layer of mulch. Otherwise bring them indoors into a well lit position or into a frost free greenhouse for the winter.

Naranjillas and Pomegranates will tolerate brief light frosts but cannot realistically be over-wintered outside. Keep them in a frost-free greenhouse or in a bright room to be safe. Naranjillas make attractive houseplants and tolerate the lower indoor light levels well. Ideally they should be kept between 10C and 30C.

Huckleberries and Cape Gooseberries are best grown as annuals.

Harvesting
Naranjillas are bright orange when ripe. Rub the hairs of Naranjilla before consuming - Naranjillas can be eaten by cutting in half and squeezing the pulp out, they are often made in drinks and jellies.

Pepinos are ripe when the skin is full coloured (slightly creamy rather than white) and gives slightly when squeezed. It should smell sweet at the stalk end. They will finish ripening on a windowsill if harvested a little early. They can be served raw in fruit salads, with or without a light sprinkle of brown sugar.

Cape Gooseberries tend to fall off the plant when ripe and the outer husk will have turned brown. The husk is not edible

Chichiquilite Huckleberries should be picked after they have turned deep black and are soft-ish. They may also develop a 'bloom' rather than be shiny (although rainfall may affect this.).

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