Top 5 – Solanaceae

I’m getting very excited about my summer crops at the moment.  I planted out the tomatoes today.  The eggplants, capsicums and chillies are hardening off and I harvested some winter grown potatoes yesterday.  All in all I have become absolutely obsessed with Solanaceae crops (sorry Daphne).  It is a little easy though to come up with a Top 5 – Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers, Potato and in my case Tamarillo (although only if I group chillies and capsicums together as peppers).  Instead in this post I take it one step further and give you my top variety for each of the above top 5.

Tomatoes – Rouge de Marmande

You can find Rouge de Marmande tomatoes in every nursery/plant retailer in Melbourne, even my local supermarket stocks them, for good reason though, they are a great variety.  They taste great, are well suited to Melbourne’s climate, are generally very productive and are reasonably compact plants (all things being relevant they are tomatoes after all….).  Rouge de Marmande plants grow to about 1-1.5 metres which means that if you have 2 metre stakes you’ll be fine.  They produce a lovely slicing tomato that also makes great sauce – what more could you possibly want?

Eggplant – Bonica

I have to admit this was something of a close call between Bonica and Lebanese eggplants – the latter being a long skinny variety and Bonica being the more traditional oval type shape.  Bonica though won the day because I usually find it to be more productive and I find I use the larger fruits in more recipes.  Bonica grows well in Melbourne and the plants can get pretty big which means lots of yummy eggplants to eat.

Potatoes – Kipfler

Again this was something of a close call – I also rate Dutch Cream really highly amongst others but Kipfler won on a couple of counts.  Firstly it crops comparatively quickly – about 3 months from sending up shoots to dying back.  The second reason is that it just tastes so damn good!  The Kipfler potatoes at the supermarket are flaccid and barely OK.  Home grown ones are firm, fresh and delicious.  Finally as they are a small salad potato they don’t require heaps of room for the tubers so you can grow them in anything from a medium sized pot to a garden bed and everything in between.

Chillies – Scotch Bonnet Chillies

I haven’t included a capsicum in my list because I simply haven’t found one in particular that stands out from the rest.  I have been growing the same unknown variety for the last few years but unfortunately I’m not sure what variety it is and also it does have off years.  So my pepper selection falls to chillies and this is the category I struggled with the most.  In the end I went for Scotch Bonnet for a couple of reasons.  The plants are relatively long-lived and get through Melbourne winters fairly happily (they do sometimes lose quite a lot of leaves (if not all) towards the end of winter/start of Spring but the foliage should start to reappear in mid Spring).  They crop heavily and the fruits look pretty.  Finally as they are medium/mild heat they are pretty versatile in terms of what you can do with them.  They make good sambal oelek.  They are delicious stuffed and they can be happily used in any recipe where you’d use chilli.


Actually I have absolutely no idea what variety my Tamarillo is.  I saved the seed from a fruit given to me by a friend and she’d got it from one of her friends who had a tree but didn’t like the fruit.  I do know the tree is in Geelong so perhaps I should call it Geelong Tamarillo.  Regardless though it is a great fruit (presuming you like Tamarillos that is….).

For another (as yet unknown but bound to be fabulous) Top 5 head over to The New Good Life

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34 Responses to Top 5 – Solanaceae

  1. L says:

    I love this list! I think I absolutely need a tamarillo to fill a winter gap in my fruit production. How old is your tree that produced hundreds of fruit this year?

    • Liz says:

      That tree is about 3-4 years old. It produced a couple of fruits in its 2nd year, more in its 3rd and that was its fourth year (it was about 3.5 years in May when I had all those harvests). They are pretty short lived – I think 8 years is about their max but I’ve yet to test it.

  2. Frogdancer says:

    foodnstuff gave me a yellow and a red tamarillo. I’m growing both so we’ll see which one we like the most.

  3. Fascinating grouping! Though it does make me sympathize to think that these may all now be out of Daphne’s reach…

  4. Daphne says:

    And it was so hard seeing all those solanums being harvested yesterday. I so miss them. Especially the chilies. They would be my number one.

  5. Tou could even add some Solanaceae flowers or would that be cheating . I think potato and aubergine flowers are beautiful in their own right.

    • Liz says:

      Their flowers are pretty aren’t they, I think though I will always prioritise edibles over decoratives, but having said that a bit of both is always good.

  6. Mark Willis says:

    Liz; Sorry to disagree with you, but I think you are wrong in saying that Scotch bonnet chillis are “…mild/medium heat”. In my experience they are VERY hot. Also, the picture you show is not of the Scotch Bonnet (I don’t know whether you intended it to be) – it is the “Cardinal’s Cap” type, which is much milder.

    • Liz says:

      Sorry Mark I meant to include a link (seed sold through New Gippsland – – to the chilli I wanted to describe and it is sold under the name Scotch Bonnet here. The ones pictured are the type which is probably what you refer to as a cardinal’s cap or hat or maybe its a Bishops hat. You’re absolutely right it is nothing like the chilli that is sold under that name in the UK (and probably elsewhere) which I got chilli burns from on more than one occasion.

      • Nina says:

        Is it just me or is this website broken? I even have it as one of my favourites (as I check them out fairly regularly) and I still can’t get on.

        So…. talking of chillies, it won’t be long before I’ll be planting and harvesting more but I’ve still got minced up ones in the freezer (having been frozen in ice cube trays initially). Any ideas of what I can do to use them all up quickly? I use them fairly regularly to add to spag bol, curries etc but I probably won’t be able to use them all that way before the next glut.

        Suggestions welcome!

        • Nina says:

          I should clarify, I mean the Gippsland Seeds one seems broken!

        • Liz says:

          It worked for me tonight. Maybe they have the same computer as Citylink and it experienced a monetary crash… AS for ideas for the chillies I will have a think – I suspect my brain has gone into meltdown and any attempt at ideas at this point would be futile.

  7. Michelle says:

    Common names can be so confusing, I’m with Mark, your Scotch Bonnet chile doesn’t look anything like the über hot chile that I know by the same name. It looks like a Capsicum baccatum and Scotch Bonnets here are Capsicum chinense, the same family that Habaneros belong to. I would rather have your Scotch Bonnet than the ones that are grown here!

    I do believe that I’m just as obsessed with solanaceae as you are, but I would not be able to settle on a favorite in any of your categories today, it’s just not possible. Although, hmm, perhaps if I could only ever grow one pepper it would have to be Pimento de Padrons. I have 9 Padron plants but no more than 3 of any other variety this year.

    • Liz says:

      I remember the Habanero type of Scotch Bonnet they had in the UK which they sold in a lot of the West Indian shops in particular. Yeah – very different to this one which is much, much milder and easier to handle. I haven’t grown any Habanero chillies yet – clearly something to be rectified at some point. I will seek out the Padrons as well after your recommendation!

  8. Andrea says:

    I’m excited too!! This year I’ve planted more tomato,eggplant and pepper seeds than I have ever before due to your wonderful posts on these vegs. The tomato and eggplant seedlings are coming along nicely but no peppers up yet ( I choose italian varieties) so I may have to try some more seeds or hit the nursery for a punnet.
    I won’t risk planting mine out into the plot until the second week in November but by then the beds they are going into will be more than ready.

    • Liz says:

      Some of my peppers are taking a really long time to emerge too – i had one germinate this week that I sowed in mid August. I think I’ve now got at least one seedling of everything I sowed (except Thai Green eggplant) which is lovely.

  9. Ooh I need to get a wriggle on! My seedlings are not going so well. Some naughty snail found it’s way into my mini greenhouse and had a feast. but I don’t have space to plant things out yet anyway. I think I am going to stick with tradition and wait til Cup day for my tomatoes. I have never even seen those cute bonnet chillies.

    • Liz says:

      Arrgh – I found some very fat slugs in mine the other day and a close inspection of a few seed trays that I though had yet to germinate showed tell tale trails all through them. Back to the seed packet…

  10. Louise says:

    I love all eggplants but the Lebanese (long thin) ones are my faves. I also like the milder capsicums – the long thin ones that you can fill with things and bake. I cant grow full sized tomatoes because of the fruit fly so have to go for cherries of all sorts and colours. I love all chillies and am awaiting my first padron this summer.

    • Liz says:

      I’m clearly going to have to seek out some padron chillies! I am very glad we don’t get fruit fly in Melbourne, or at least its not quite such a problem as it is north of here.

  11. I love the white eggplants, and the bigger purple ones. The purple variety I really enjoyed this year was Aswad. Like you, I tend to use the bigger eggplants more easily than the smaller ones.

    I love tomatoes, but haven’t found a particular favorite yet. I have just harvested my first ever tomatillos. (Not to be confused with your tamarillos.) I really like their flavor too.

    I am hoping to have lots of banana peppers next year. I have never been brave enough for potatoes yet. And have only had really low success with the hot chilies.

    Lovely post. It gets me thinking about all the flavors found in this one little category of vegetable crops. 🙂

    • Liz says:

      I have some tomatillos seed which I sowed last year but they didn’t grow it in a big enough pot so it didn’t do well at all. I really should try again.

  12. Mike says:

    My nan used to have tamarillos just like yours in her garden. They had a specific name, I just can’t seem to find it this second.
    I loved them so much when I was a little kid (although my cousins hated them).

  13. mac says:

    Love your Scotch Bonnet Chillies, I started some earlier this year, but the seedlings died while I was away. Hmmm, try again next spring.

  14. Balvinder says:

    We have started getting our winter crops but the weather is still warm with cool evenings.
    Can I grow Scotch Bonnet chillies from seeds and can you tell me from where to buy?

  15. Pingback: Around the garden « Foodnstuff

  16. Bek says:

    What a great post, my mouth is watering with anticipation of summer solanaceae crops! My lovely neighbour gifted me some rouge de marmande tomatoes over the weekend that are almost flowering, and now I’m even more impatient to try them. I’m with you on Kipfler potatoes, although this year I’m also growing the famed Pink Fir Apple so we shall see if they steal the crown.

    • Liz says:

      I grew Pink FIr Apple last year and while I really enjoyed them I don’t think they were any better than Kipfler but they took at least a month longer to crop. Not sure about storage though they might be better in that respect.

  17. Diana says:

    The nightshade family plants are my favourite too and love your list.

  18. Lrong says:

    Interesting… love your Bonnet chillies… so red, so good looking…

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