These bright yellow fruits are those of the Solanum mammosum, a perennial plant that has lots of thorns on the leaves or stems, bears purple flowers and looks like a small tree or shrub when grown here. It shares the same family with the tomato and potato. All parts of the plant are poisonous. However, it is regarded as a very auspicious plant for the Lunar New Year season. The secret is in the fruits that are pear shaped and has 5 protrusions. These protrusions look like teats or nipples but we like to call it 'fingers' which in Cantonese sounds like 'ji' (子), meaning sons.
Botanical name: Solanum mammosum
Common name: Nipplefruit, Titty Fruit, Cow's Udders, Apple of Sodom
Malay name: terung susu kambing (goat's milk eggplant)
Origin: South America
In Chinese it is written as 五代同堂 - wu dai tong tang, meaning Five Generations Living Harmoniously Under One Roof. This would mean a family having great-great grandparents, great grandparents, grandparents, parents and children living harmoniously together in the same household. This would mean longevity, prosperity and happiness for the family. Ain't that nice?
It was highly sought after during last year when it was an Ox year. The whole fruit looks like a cow's udder. When you cut the fruit into two and then draw 2 eyes on it, it will look like a cow's head.
It used to be quite cheap but it has become a popular Chinese New Year decorative plant in recent years. The one in the picture will cost at least RM 80.00 per pot and a stalk is sold at around RM 13.00.
Andrea of Andrea in this Lifetime has nice pictures of this plant in her latest post, "Nipple Fruit, again unusual in this part of the world!". I have her to thank for identifying the botanical name of this plant for me.
I took this picture from the nursery in Sg Buloh where I like to go to buy my Chinese New Year Plants. This nursery called Ah Chui Nursery has a lot of varieties of very good quality plants at reasonably cheap prices. I mean plants that bloom at the right time and continue to bloom and live long after the season is over.
My grandmother story:
When I was little, my grandparents were the caretakers of a temple and we used to grow such a solanum plant. My grandma called it the 5-finger fruit and she took good care of the plant. Our fruits were green at first which later changed to yellow when ripe. I used to wonder why such a thorny plant with fruits that cannot be eaten can be so precious to her. Whenever the fruits ripen, my job would be to pluck them, arrange them nicely on a plate and place it on the altars as prayer offerings. It was treated like precious commodity. My grandma's dream was to live a long life with many many grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. How proud and wise she must have felt if only she achieved her target. In Chinese culture, we always have great respect for the eldest (oldest) member of the household. Even the great grandmom of Emperors have super duper titles and they are usually very influential members of the imperial family. I used to imagine the solanum fruits were apples with 5 fingers at the bottom. Other devotees who came to visit the temple were attracted to the unique looking fruits and asked us for some to take home. Those were the days. When I look back I remember that I really have lots of fond memories of a carefree childhood spent in this old little temple, helping my grandma and playing with my cousins and siblings. I learnt to climb trees, played with dirt, catch fishes, dragonflies and damselflies and we children also became foster parents of stray puppies, kittens and tortoises. We also reared chickens, goose, turkeys and ducks, at different times of course. I really enjoyed my childhood in the outdoors and I was quite a tomboy then. Getting whacked by my illiterate but wise grandma was part and parcel of growing up. In fact, I love her more for not 'sparing the rod and spoiling the child'.
There are many more Chinese New Year plants in my first post titled, "Auspicious Plants for Chinese New Year". To read more, click here.
My post today is dedicated to Ms Grace Peterson of Gardening with Grace, from Albany, USA. She was the first commenter of my previous post, Lichun The First Day of Spring. She is a great writer of a beautiful garden blog.