Solanum uporo is native to regions in the vicinity of Fiji, Samoa, Tongatabu and Tahiti and is most commonly referred to as the Cannibal’s tomato (Smith, 1991). It is a member of the nightshade family (Solanceae) and is a relative of the common tomato (Solanum lycopersicum from S. America). This is due to its affiliation with Fijian tribes reported to have practiced cannibalism. This cannibalistic tribe claimed that the sauce made from this type of tomato is the perfect sauce to eat with human flesh, as it supposedly helps chew and digest the tough meat (Trade Winds Fruit, 2013). Thankfully, this is no longer common practice, but the fruit on its own is used in other areas of the world as a vegetable and the leaves are used as salad greens.
The nightshade family as a whole is a key family of plants (made up of approximately 100 genera) because species in this family have a wide variety of uses for us, including food, medicine and ornamentation. S. uporo has a few historical ethnobotanical uses besides as an accompaniment to human flesh. It has been used to treat boils, abscesses, swelling and tumours as well as mycosis and filariasis (Duke, 1998). Nevertheless, its effectiveness in treating any of the above has not been demonstrated by modern science.
Interestingly, this shrub can grow as either an annual or a perennial depending on how it’s grown. Either way, it requires rich soil and ample sun. When grown in a pot it behaves as a perennial but as an annual when grown in the ground. It takes patience to grow these plants, as the seeds take months to germinate. In comparison to the common tomato, the stem and leaves of Cannibal’s tomato are darker and the flavoring of the fruit is different.
Duke. (1998). Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases: Ethnobotanical Uses. Retrieved from http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/duke/ethnobot.pl on January 8, 2014.
Linnean Society of London. (1929). The Journal of the Linnean Society. Retrieved from http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/name/Solanum_uporo# on January 8, 2014.
National Museum of Natural History. (1951). Atoll Research Bulletin. Retrieved from http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/name/Solanum_uporo# on January 8, 2014.
Rareplants.de (2013). Solanum Uporo (Fiji Cannibal’s Tomato). Retrieved from http://www.rareplants.de/shop/uploads/Html/Solanum-uporo-Fiji-Cannibals-Tomato_7183_1.htm on January 8, 2014.
Rehder, A.; Sargent, C. S. (1918). The Bradley Bibliography; a guide to the literature of the woody plants of the world. Retrieved from http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/name/Solanum_uporo# on January 8, 2014.
Smith, A. C. (1991). Flora Vitiensis nova : a new Flora of Fiji. Retrieved from http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/name/Solanum_uporo# on January 8, 2014.
Sturtevant, E. L. (1919). Sturtevant’s notes on edible plants. Retrieved from http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/name/Solanum_uporo# on January 8, 2014.
Trade Winds Fruit (2013). Plant Information Database: Cannibal’s Tomato. Retrieved from http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/content/cannibal-tomato.htm on January 8, 2014.