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Nipplefruits are round to oblong with several small, oval protrusions at the base of the fruit. Resembling the shape of a cow’s udder, this fruit averages 3-4 centimeters in diameter and 4-7 centimeters in length. The skin is smooth, waxy, and bright orange to gold when mature and the flesh is white with many small, red-brown seeds. Nipplefruits grow on a thorny shrub that has many large, fuzzy leaves with purple veins and prominent spikes.
Nipplefruit is available year-round, with peak season in the fall.
Nipplefruit, botanically classified as Solanum mammosum, is an inedible and poisonous fruit that belongs to the Solanaceae, or nightshade family along with potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes. Also known as Fox Head, Five Fingered eggplant, Apple of Sodom, Titty fruit, and Cow’s Udder, this fruit is grown for ornamental purposes and is often used in floral arrangements as a symbol of good luck and prosperity in Asian cultures. Nipplefruit has also acquired the title of an invasive species in parts of the Americas because of its aggressive growth habits.
Nipplefruit contains some vitamin B, calcium, phosphorus, and iron.
Mature Nipplefruit is poisonous and should not be ingested. Unripe Nipplefruit is believed by some to be edible and cooked as a vegetable, but caution should be taken to ensure the fruit is unripe and prepared properly to avoid poisoning. In the Philippines, the fruit is boiled whole, and both the juice that is released into the boiling water and the fruit are consumed. The leaves are also prepared as a tea and are considered a mild narcotic. Nipplefruit will keep up to two weeks when stored whole in a cool and dry place.
In China, Nipplefruit is a symbol of wealth and longevity during Lunar New Year celebrations. It is often tied together in the shape of a small tree and displayed as a floral arrangement to bring the family prosperity in the generations to come. In addition to being a symbol of good fortune, Nipplefruit is also used medicinally across the world. In Belize, Nipplefruit is used topically to soothe skin irritations such as athletes foot, and in the Philippines, it is used to treat coughs and loss of appetite. The sap of the leaves is also drunk in Malaysia to reduce symptoms of fever.
Nipplefruit is native to South America, was spread to the Caribbean, and then introduced to Asia in the 1930s. Today, Nipplefruit can be found in local markets in South America, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and Asia.