Hierba mora

Solanum nigrum
Hierba mora just harvested from a farmers’ field in El Salvador (Photo by Maria Moreira)

Hierba mora just harvested from a farmers’ field in El Salvador (Photo by Maria Moreira)

Introduction

Hierba mora, also called just mora in Central America, is a leafy-green in the solanaceous farmily plant that grows wild in many parts of the Americas (Figure 1), including Massachusetts where it is called black nightsade. In El Salvador hierba mora is used in soups and also as an ingredient in pupusas, the national dishe of El Salvador.

Hierba mora is a weed in many parts of the Americas and can be harvested wild. It is also cultivated on farms in El Salvador. Bunches are made from the foliage when the plant just begins to flower (Figure 2). The foliage will grow back after harvest and thus can be harvested multiple-times. This plant will produce black/purple berries which are considered to be toxic and are taken off the plant when harvested/sold (Figure 3).

Figure 1. A field of hierba mora growing wilds under a canopy of loroco in El Salvador (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 2. Bunched hierba mora for sale at a Latino market in Washington DC in 2016 Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 3. Berries produced on a hierba mora plant at the UMass Research Farm in 2010 (Photo by Frank Mangan).

Production

When we planted this crop at the UMass Research Farm, we used transplants that were put on black plastic with double rows, one foot in the row, for a plant population of 14,500 plants/acre (Figure 4). 

Figure 4. Hierba mora growing in Massachusetts in 2010 (Photo by Frank Mangan)

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