Solanaceae: a hardy annual growing to 60cm. Found growing on uncultivated and waste land, a common garden weed in some areas. The small white potato like flowers with prominent bright yellow anthers. Blooming from July - September. Followed by shiny black berries. The leaves are ovate to heart-shaped, with wavy or large-toothed edges. Native to Eurasia and introduced in the Americas, Australasia, and South Africa.
Used in preserves, jams and pies, a pleasant musky taste, somewhat like a tomato, but much less pleasant, it is said to improve slightly after a frost. Only the fully ripe black fruits should be used, the unripe green fruits contain the toxin solanine.
WARNING: There is a lot of disagreement over if the leaves or fruit of this plant are poisonous. Views vary from relatively poisonous to perfectly safe to eat. The plant is cultivated as a food crop, both for its fruit and its leaves, in some parts of the world and it is probably true to say that toxicity can vary considerably according to where the plant is grown and the cultivar that is being grown. The unripe fruit contains the highest concentration of toxins.
Medically the whole plant has antiperiodic, antiphlogistic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, febrifuge, narcotic, purgative and sedative properties. The plant should be harvested in the autumn when both flowers and fruit are upon the plant, and is dried for later use.
Sow seeds in spring in situ, the seeds can also be sown in a greenhouse during the spring if required. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant out in late spring, well-drained soil in full sun. plants will self-seed if the soil is annual turned over.