The Bush Tomato, also known as the Desert raisin (Solanum centrale), is one of the traditional bush tucker plants that has gained popularity in western cuisine.
Whilst there are several edible species of Solanum found in the Central Australia region, Solanum centrale is the most popular and considered favourable for cultivation to satisfy western demands.
Care should be taken when identifying the bush tomato in the wild as there are a number of closely related species, that are similar in appearance, but are toxic. In addition, there can be variation to the bush tomato, within the same species, the variation usually obvious in the leaves, making it appear to be different plants, even when they are growing in the same area.
The fruit of the bush tomato are round, approximately 10-20 mm in diameter and turn from green to yellow when ripe. When they are dried they look like raisins. Fruit ripening on the bush dry to resemble a raisin.
The Solanum centrale has a more star-shaped flower, whilst the leaves can vary slightly from plant to plant in the shape, colour and size. The leaves can be pale green or greyish, and are finely furry, with a velvety feel. Unlike the Solanum ellipticum which is more hairy along the stems.
If you are not an expert at identifying the plant, ‘DO NOT’ eat the fruit, as some Solanum species that look similar, are toxic.
In the Solanum species, the unripe fruit contains the toxin solanine (the same as that found in green potatoes). Only a select few species of Solanum produce edible fruit when fully ripen. Others remain toxic.
There are many other Solanum species that resemble Solanum centrale, and only some of them produce edible fruit eg Solanum chippendalei and Solanum ellipticum. Some closely related species produce fruit that are toxic.
The following images were provided courtesy of Tony Bean, Senior Botanist, Queensland Herbarium, Brisbane (Solanum is one of his specialities). AusEmade is appreciative of his contribution to our section on Solanum.
Bush Tomato, Bush Raisin, Desert Raisin.
- Scientific classification
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Clade: Tracheophytes
- Clade: Angiosperms
- Clade: Eudicots
- Clade: Asterids
- Order: Solanales
- Family: Solanaceae
- Genus: Solanum
- Species: S. centrale
- Binomial name: Solanum centrale