Naranjilla facts and health benefits

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Naranjilla facts and health benefits

Narajilla Quick Facts
Name: Narajilla
Scientific Name: Solanum quitoense
Origin Indigenous to the Andean countries of Columbia and Ecuador
Colors Brownish-green turning to orange when ripe
Shapes 1–4 per inflorescence, globose, round or round-ovate, to 2 1/2 in (6.25 cm) across and contains 4 compartments separated by membranous partitions
Flesh colors Light yellow-orange
Taste Citrusy, resemble a cross between a pineapple and a lemon
Calories 30 Kcal./cup
Major nutrients Vitamin K (14.58%)
Vitamin B3 (10.88%)
Vitamin B6 (9.85%)
Vitamin E (6.00%)
Carbohydrate (5.45%)
Health benefits Cancer Prevention, Digestive Health, Cholesterol and Heart Health, Vision Health, Immune System Benefits, Circulation, Detoxify Your Body, Bone Strength, Bone Strength
More facts about Narajilla
An intriguing and highly appealing member of the nightshade family, Solanaceae, the naranjilla, Solanum quitoense Lam. (syn. S. angulatum Lam.) is bright-orange fruit native to Andean countries of Columbia and Ecuador. Lulo is the accepted name in Colombia but in Panama and Ecuador this delicious, tangy fruit is called naranjilla. Lulo, Naranjilla, Quito-Orange, obando, cocona, or nuqui are few of the common names of naranjilla fruit. It looks like an orange on the outside and a tomato on the inside, the flavor is often described as more like pineapple, kiwi, lime, or rhubarb. Since it belongs to the nightshade family, along with the tomato, potato, and eggplant, a ripe naranjilla is delicate and easily bruised, so they are generally harvested unripe. Although the demand for naranjilla around the world is growing due to its unique, exotic flavor, but unluckily, naranjilla is a member of the nightshade family, which is extremely fragile and is susceptible to bruising, discoloration, and insects/diseases. For this reason, mass cultivation is not really an option for naranjilla, so it remains a small-scale crop that has relatively low export levels.


Naranjilla is an erect, spreading herbaceous perennial, 8 ft. (2.5 m) tall with thick stems that become somewhat woody with age; spiny in the wild, spineless in cultivated plants. The plant is intolerant of full sun exposure but favors semi-shade and winds protected areas and does best in well-drained rich organic soil but will also grow on poor, stony soils, calcareous soils and on scarified limestone. It must have good drainage. The stems, leaves and petioles of the plant are covered in short purple hairs.

Plant has thick, lignescent, pubescent (with purple stellate trichomes) stem, prickly in the wild, unarmed in cultivated plant. Leaves are normally alternate, oblong-ovate, to 2 ft. (60 cm) long and 18 in (45 cm) wide, soft and woolly. There may be few or many spines on petioles, midrib and lateral veins, above and below, or the leaves may be totally spineless. Flowers are fragrant, pentamerous, strongly andromonoecious in short axillary inflorescence of 1–20 flowers. About 1 1/5 in (3 cm) wide have 5 petals, white on the upper surface, purple hairy beneath, and 5 prominent yellow stamens. The unopened buds are likewise covered with purple hairs.


Naranjilla is actually globose, round or round-ovate shaped fruit, 1–4 per inflorescence, 2 1/2 in (6.25 cm) across and contains 4 compartments separated by membranous partitions and filled with translucent green or yellowish, very juicy, slightly acid to acid, pulp of delicious flavor which has been likened to pineapple-and-lemon. Fruit is normally brownish-green while young turning to orange when completely ripe. Skin is normally smooth leathery, thick peel which encloses light yellow-orange flesh and juicy green pulp with small, thin seeds.

Fruit consists of numerous, small, lenticular, flat, minutely pitted, buff-colored seeds, 2.5–3.5 mm in diameter. The fruit has a citrus flavor resemble a cross between a pineapple and a lemon. The juice of the naranjilla is green and is often used as a juice or for a drink called lulada. A brown, hairy coat protects the fruit until it is fully ripe, when the hairs can be easily rubbed off, showing the bright-orange, smooth, leathery, fairly thick peel. It looks like an orange on the outside and a tomato on the inside, the flavor is often termed as more like pineapple, kiwi, lime, or rhubarb.


The origin of the naranjilla is not clear, but supposed to be indigenous to the mountainous regions of Colombia and Ecuador, where it was first recorded in the 17th century.  It is known in Colombia as the “lulo,” as reflective of the Incan name “lulum.”  It is supposed that the Incas enjoyed the juice of the naranjilla fruit.

Since then, cultivation has slowly spread through South and Central America to place such as Peru, Panama, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.  Due to problems in cultivation, the plant has not been successfully introduced elsewhere in the world.  Though the fruit and its juice were introduced with great popular acclaim at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, its subtle nature and failure to bear fruit outside of South America has prevented the naranjilla from becoming a widespread fruit.  Efforts to can and preserve the pulp have been pursued by companies such as Campbell’s Soup, but have failed or been dismissed because of their inferior flavor. It is becoming a successful weed in montane regions of Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama.

Nutritional Value

Apart from their citrusy taste, Naranjilla is a good source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Consuming 120 gram of naranjilla offers 17.5 µg of Vitamin K, 1.74 mg of Vitamin B3, 0.128 mg of Vitamin B6, 0.9 mg of Vitamin E, 7.08 g of Carbohydrate, 0.264 mg of Vitamin B5, 0.42 mg of Iron, 240 mg of Potassium, 34 µg of Vitamin A and 0.054 mg of Vitamin B1.


Health Benefits of Naranjilla

Lulo Fruit or Naranjilla Fruit consists of lots of Vitamins A, C, B also iron, phosphorus, beta-carotene, magnesium, and calcium. Lulo is virtually fat free and very low in calories and is very high in antioxidants. Listed below are some of the health benefits of consuming naranjilla:

1. Cancer Prevention

Unique mix of vitamins and antioxidants in Naranjilla mean that it can neutralize the free radicals in the body that mutate healthy cells into cancerous cells. Ongoing researches at a variety of facilities around the world are studying the precise antioxidants and modes of action that give this tangy fruit this anti-carcinogenic ability.(1)

2. Digestive Health

Naranjilla consists of pepsin which is actually a type of fiber and is very beneficial for the digestive tract. Almost all fiber helps promote digestion, and pepsin is one of the best varieties for the health of your gastrointestinal tract. It helps to eliminate constipation, cramping, bloating, and more serious conditions like gastric ulcers. Fiber also helps to regulate the amount of glucose that is released into the bloodstream, making Naranjilla beneficial for people suffering from diabetes, who need to monitor their blood sugar levels very closely.(2)

3. Cholesterol and Heart Health

The combination of dietary fiber help to eliminate dangerous, “bad” cholesterol from the body, and the rich variety of other vitamins and minerals can expressively improve the functioning of the cardiovascular system and lower your chances of developing atherosclerosis, as well as lower your risk of heart attacks and strokes.(3)

4. Vision Health

Naranjilla consists of carotenoids including vitamin A and beta carotene which help to neutralize the free radicals that cause oxidative stress on certain ocular cells, including the macular lutea. This can reduce your chances of macular degeneration, cataracts, and other vision issues.(4)

5. Immune System Benefits

Naranjilla is rich in vitamin C and vitamin A and is a wonderful way to boost your immune system. Vitamin C works as a natural antioxidant to clear out free radicals from your system, and also stimulates white blood cell production, which is the body’s first line of defense against infectious diseases and other pathogens. Additionally, vitamin C is essential for the development of collagen, which supports connective tissue, blood vessels, and organs.(5)

6. Circulation

Significant levels of iron that are found in Naranjilla means that your red blood cell count will be increased, thereby boosting the circulation of your blood and increasing oxygenation to vital organ systems and cells. This can also improve the strength, growth rate, and texture of your hair by encouraging the follicle beds. Furthermore, improved cellular healing and regeneration can be achieved by boosting the amount of iron in your body.(6)

7. Detoxify Your Body

Naranjilla has often been used in traditional medicine as a diuretic substance, meaning that it increases urination. This can cleanse the kidney of excess toxins, relieve stress on the liver, and eliminate excess salts, water, and even fat from the body. Diuretic substances are commonly turned to by people looking to lose weight or detoxify their body and blood of toxins.(7)

8. Bone Strength

Strong bones are important at all stages of life, so a fruit like Naranjilla, which has a rich diversity of minerals, including calcium, phosphorous, and iron, can considerably improve the density of bone tissue, thus preventing conditions like osteoporosis and even arthritis as we age.(8)

9. Stress Relief and Sleep Disorders

Although research is ongoing in terms of the actual method of action for these health conditions, Naranjilla has been associated with hormonal changes in the body that can improve mood, reduce stress, and even promote sleep for people suffering from insomnia and restless sleep disorders.

How to Eat

  • Ripe naranjillas has a sweet-tart, refreshing flavor.
  • Ripe naranjillas, freed of hairs, can be eaten out of- hand by halving the fruit and squeezing the contents into the mouth or scooping with a spoon and ingesting the flesh.
  • Some locals eat the fruit with a tinge of salt.
  • Ripe flesh with embedded seeds, may be scooped out and added to ice-cream mix, made into a sauce for numerous native cuisine or used in pies and other cooked desserts.
  • Naranjilla jelly and marmalade are produced on a small scale in Cali, Colombia.
  • Empty fruit hulls can be stuffed with a mixture of mashed bananas and other ingredients and baked.
  • In its native countries, lulo is mostly and popularly used for its delicious and nutritious juice ‘ jugo de lulo’ , in particular refrescos or naranjilla smoothies, made by blending the flesh then strained, sweetened and served with ice-cubes.
  • Sherbet is also prepared by mixing strained naranjilla juice with sugar or corn syrup, water, a dash of lime juice, then partially freezing followed by blending to froth and freezing again.

Other Facts

  • Naranjilla is used as a source for Solanum hybridization and breeding work.


  • People with very sensitive skin may find the hairs on the fruits irritating and should protect the hands when rubbing off the fuzz.






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