Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tamarillo de Colombia, the Andean tomato

The Tamarillo of Colombia, Cyphomandra betacea or Solanum betaceum, also called tree tomatoes, sachatomate, chilto and Andean tomato is a fruit shrub of the Solanaceae family. It is actually a giant tomato reaches three meters in height and more than 7 years. It originated in the Andes where we can find small wild populations in Argentina and Bolivia. It is cultivated as a vegetable in Peru, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador. In recent decades its cultivation has spread to southern Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Ripe fruits of Cyphomandra betacea, very rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Tamarillo of Colombia adult three feet grown in an orange grove a few miles from the sea on the island of Mallorca. Unlike tomato, tamarillo of Colombia or tree tomato resists well the moderate cold with few frosts Mediterranean coastal areas. In particularly cold winters behaves as deciduous, losing leaves and bears in hibernation until temperatures rise in spring and then emerge again. Like all vegetables appreciates the contribution of well-decomposed organic matter either in the form of manure or compost. Fits any type of soil, where fertile and well drained. In the summers rainless need several waterings a week to keep well hydrated large leaves up to 30 centimeters. Easily reproduced by seeds that germinate quickly and the year it can begin to bear fruit.

 Its flowers come in clusters. They have five white petals and five yellow stamens. The leaves are very large and the veins are marked. Its blade is entirely and roped, that is, heart-shaped with the tip acuminate and is not subdivided into leaflets  as in the tomato. The petiole is long and thick. The leaves, especially the most tender, are covered with glanduliferous trichomes on both sides which give off a strong smell of tomato.

The fruits hang on long stems without thorns. Have the shape and size of a hen's egg. The fruit color varies from orange to deep red slightly bruised. The skin is smooth, thick and strong.

Under the skin is a thin layer of orange pulp surrounding the numerous seeds encompassed in a very juicy, translucent jelly sometimes tinged with red around each seed. The pulp of these fruits can be eaten like a teaspoon custard. Once peeled also can be eaten in salads like tomatoes or added to a tropical fruit salad. With its pulp can make a good sauce to add to rice, pasta and meat dishes, giving an intense tomato flavor very peculiar. In bakery can prepare delicious cakes with jam made from the pulp, such as a Swiss roll. Ice cream, sorbets and cocktails of Andean tomato are also delicious and very exotic.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Crepis triasii, a small rupicolous

The small composite Crepis triasii is endemic of Mallorca, Menorca and Cabrera. Its preferred habitat are the crevices of calcareous rocks north facing. Very rarely grows on level ground, always in vertical walls. Spatulate leaves are arranged in a basal rosette.

Crepis triasii late May growing in a crack of a limestone located in the path leading to the Puig de Ses Tres Creus in the municipality of Soller.

Crepis triasii typical rosette which acts as a parabolic antenna directed towards the light

Two Crepis triasii in April growing together in the same crack.

 Crepis triasii leaves are covered with a thin pilosity more abundant in its lower face. The veins paint a very striking relief grid that facilitates the identification of the plant when no flowers yet.

 Detail of hairs or trichomes. It is appreciated the most abundance in the back of the leaves.

Crepis triasii in a completely vertical rock. Its north facing provides a cool and shaded. In the cocoon of the left we can see very good the small bracts directed outwardly surrounding the flower involucre chapter. This detail is also very useful for identification.

Crepis triasii side view. While the leaves are applied to the rock surface to avoid direct sunlight and sun-loving flowers are arranged on long stems that stretch toward the light with the intention of making the sun shine. They know that pollinating insects with ultraviolet vision will only whether their petals if they are illuminated.

The number of flowers per plant varies greatly, from two or three to more than a dozen. The golden yellow petals colorful gray surfaces of the calcareous rocks.

Flower and flower bud viewed from the side with the details of the bracts at the base of the involucre.

Crepis triasii flowers in late May.

The flowers of the Compositae great family really are inflorescences made up of numerous individual flowers growing together. Usually they have tubulate flowers without petals in the center of the inflorescence and ligulate flowers with large petals on the outside (a typical example is the large sunflower inflorescence). In the case of Crepis triasii all the flowers of the inflorescence are ligulate, all have a large yellow petal with toothed edge, five stamens welded by the anthers, one pistil with the stigma forked and one inferior ovary.