Solanum Habrochaites by Gary Cass
Solanum habrochaites is a “wild tomato,” one of about 13 species in the Solanum lycopersicum genus, or tomato “family.” The other, older name for this species is Lycopersicon hirsutum.
There are two types (subspecies) of Solanum habrochaites:
- Solanum habrochaites
- Solanum habrochaites f. glabratum
This species is native to Peru and southern parts of Ecuador; it has small, green, hairy fruit.
S. habrochaites is often found in higher-elevation river valleys (between 1,800 and 3,300 meters) from southern Ecuador to central Peru. It is a strong outbreeder with a very long exerted stigma. Most are self-incompatible and need siblings nearby for pollination. Self-pollination occasionally occurs but produces weak plants that show inbreeding depression. This subspecies does not readily cross with L. esculentum.
The other subspecies, S. habrochaites f. glabratum, is self-compatible, and its progeny does not suffer from inbreeding depression. It is found in the southwestern parts of Ecuador at lower latitudes (0–6° south). This subspecies is capable of crossing with L. esculentum.
S. habrochaites has been noted for its several resistances to pests. One trait is that of resistance to two species of red spider mite. This is a physical rather than biochemical mechanism. The plant’s glandular hairs (trichomes) secrete a sticky substance in which mites become ensnared. S. habrochaites also contains a high concentration of a naturally occurring pesticide called 2-tridecacone. This provides a high degree of protection against pinworm, leaf miners, aphids, and caterpillars. The older the plant, the stronger this resistance becomes.
S. habrochaites has been noted as a source of resistance to pathogens such as early blight, bacterial speck, and root-knot nematodes. This species is also being investigated as a source of cold tolerance and is used in the breeding rootstock.
The flavor of S. habrochaites is often very good, with distinct fruity notes.