Xaltomatl, Creeping False Holly
Scientific name: Jaltomata procumbens
Common name: Xaltomatl, Creeping False Holly
A herbaceous shrub, usually up to 1.5 m tall, distributed from the southern USA and Mexico through Central America to Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, where it grows at elevations between 1500 and 3000 m along roadsides, streams and rivers and in pine forests. It has short but wide leaves, green flowers with olive spots and perfectly round, cherry-sized berries that are dark red to bluish-purple when ripe. The fruit is covered by thin skin and the pulp is very juicy, with numerous tiny seeds, similar to sand grains. In fact, in the Aztec language Nahuatl, the common name of Jaltomata procumbens -"Xaltomatl"- means "sand tomato". The berries are sometimes sold in markets in Mexico, Central and South America and they are locally used in the preparation of different salsas and gravies. Jaltomata procumbens has a long history in the old pharmacopoeias of Mexico and it has been known for its medicinal applications since the sixteenth century. Presently, it continues to be used as a remedy in the treatment of ulcers and other gastric problems, biliary and nervous ailments. In Mexico's Federal District, the leaves of the plant are used as an ingredient in aromatic baths. In cultivation it adapts well to warm temperate and temperate areas. Seeds can be planted like those of tomatos or Physalis, in trays or pots, shallowly covered, at 20 to 25°C.