Solanum plant a hot item in Solana Beach

Editor’s note:

This feature is part of an ongoing series about the hot picks and interesting vendors that serve the community at our local farmers markets.

If you’ve been at the Solana Beach Farmers Market on a recent Sunday, you’ve probably noticed a number of people strolling through or leaving with an interesting bouquet that’s made not of flowers but of tiny colorful pumpkins.

It’s called a pumpkin bush, said Gilbert Quintos, who grows the plant on his 8-acre farm in Fallbrook and has been selling at the Solana Beach market since 1987. Actually, the scientific name is “Solanum P” — fitting for Solana Beach — and those blossoms are tiny squash, not pumpkins. Quintos said he intentionally plants rows and rows of the bush in February so its eight-month harvest will conclude just in time for the beginning of fall, and it’s one of the most popular items he sells year-round.

People love the plant because it’s a good substitute for fresh flowers and it lasts for months, all the way through the fall season, and then dries beautifully, Quintos said. But if you happen to purchase a decorative pumpkin bush, don’t put it in water or the squash will drop off.

Although the pumpkin bush may look pretty, Quintos said, going farm to market is a sometimes unpretty process because the bushy is very thorny and farmers go to great pains in dethorning each and every stem.

Who’s your favorite local vendor? Email