I’d like to think that This Hippie was not born yesterday. I do a lot of obsessive research about plants, food, and gardening to make sure that I understand what’s going on. But then things like this happen to invite speculation that, perhaps, I am just a chump. In fairness, I tend to have the same compulsions that many edible gardeners have – to find new exciting plants to grow and new delicious food to eat. And so, last spring when I was in one of my favorite shops, Eggplant Urban Farm Supply, perusing the seeds, and ran into this mystery seed pack labeled “Sunberry” I immediately became intrigued and bought a pack for planting this year. And plant I did.
After taking a look-see at these plants, I noticed that they looked suspiciously like a weed growing in my boulevard:
And wouldn’t you know it. They are the same damn plant. Although not indicated on the “Sunberry” seed pack, I found out from this book that “Sunberry” is merely a name given to the plant Black Nightshade to distract from its relation to Deadly Nightshade, which is highly poisonous. And black nightshade is a ubiquitous weed that grows prolifically in the Midwest including, for example, the uncultivated section of my boulevard. It’s related to many of the most delicious cultivated garden vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes.
After making sure the Boulevard plant (white flowers; bug-eaten leaves; berry clusters; sepal is smaller than the berry) was not deadly nightshade (purple flowers; generally uneaten leaves; single berries; sepal is bigger than the berry; smells of death), I tasted this unexpected treat, and promptly pulled out two of the three plants taking up space in my community garden plot. In flavor it’s very similar to ground cherry, which I don’t get very excited about – at least when compared to tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. And, since it’s in the same family as those other vegetables, it’s competing for the same nutrients as the tomato plants sitting next to it. I did keep one plant because maybe it will make a unique salsa or something. We’ll see. The one remaining black nightshade plant in my plot is, by far, outperforming all of my tomato, pepper and eggplant plants. So at the very least it is sucking up nutrients which will make lovely compost for a future garden bed.