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"It's a tomato!" "Look at the cute little pumpkins!" "Is it some kind of new gourd?" Nobody guessed the truth -- that this charmer was actually an eggplant!
Pumpkin on a Stick has been delighting gardeners for more than 125 years, and goes by many names. Some call it Pumpkin Tree or Pumpkin Bush, because of the sturdy, long-lasting branches set with large purple thorns. (Those thorns are one of the giveaways that it's an eggplant, by the way!) Others call it Mock Tomato, because it really does resemble a heavily ribbed tomato, especially when the fruits first turn from green to scarlet. They won't get their pumpkin-orange tones until they begin to dry out. Still others know it as Hmong Eggplant, Red China Eggplant, or Scarlet Chinese Eggplant, reflecting its origin in Southeast Asia. But whatever you call it, you must grow it for indoor bouquets and arrangements all autumn long!
The plant itself is very attractive, well-branched and upright, reaching 3 to 4 feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide. It boasts handsome, very large foliage that protects the clusters of 2- to 5-inch fruits from sunscald. After the insignificant blooms pass in mid- to late summer, the fruit appears. At first it's pale green and nubby. But it quickly achieves its pumpkin-y shape, then turns rich, deep scarlet. This persists into autumn, when the first chilly weather begins to turn the scarlet to orange. Within a week or two, you have it -- pumpkins on a stick!.