Meet the long lost cousin of the tomato – the tamarillo!
- Tamarillos are a variety of fruit, comparable to the tomato, and they are native to South America.
- New Zealanders gave the name ‘tamarillo’ to the ‘tree tomato’ fruit, a name it is also known by, in 1967 for commercial purposes, and the fruit is also called ‘tamamoro’, ‘tomate dulce’, ‘tomate granadilla’ and ‘tomate de árbol’ among other names.
- The tamarillo grows on the plant with the scientific name Solanum betaceum, and it is from the family Solanaceae, the family of nightshades.
- Tamarillos are somewhat ovoid in shape, and typically reach a length of 4 to 10 centimetres (1.6 to 4 inches) and have a diameter of 3.8 to 5 centimetres (1.5 to 2 inches).
- The skin of tamarillos can be yellow, red, orange, or purple, while the flesh is often a similar colour to the skin but it sometimes differs.
- Tamarallos grow on a tree with a height generally between 3 to 5.5 metres (10 to 18 feet); and a single tree can produce 20 to 30 kilograms (44 to 66 pounds) of fruit each year.
- A tamarillo’s flavour varies with the colour, with red variants generally having a tart flavour, while the yellow varieties are typically sweet, having a flavour combination of kiwi or passion fruit and tomato.
- While tamarillos can be eaten raw, often with a utensil that is used to spoon out the flesh, the tough bitter skin is usually left uneaten unless cooked; and the fruit is also popularly made into spreads, stews, curries and other sauces.
- Tamarillos are very high in vitamin C and are good sources of vitamins A and E, as well as iron and pyridoxine.
- Tamarillos have been cultivated in parts of Asia and Africa, and they have also been commercially grown in New Zealand since the 1920s, after which demand increased during World War II, due to the fruit’s vitamin C content.
And a little more info for those really keen Tamarillo fans…
Plant origin and regions of cultivation
The tamarillo is native to the Andes of Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia. Today it is still cultivated in gardens and small orchards for local production, and it is one of the most popular fruits in these regions. Other regions of cultivation are the subtropical areas throughout the world, such as Rwanda, South Africa, Darjeeling and Sikkim in India, Nepal, Hong Kong, China, the United States, Australia, Bhutan and New Zealand.
The first internationally marketed crop of tamarillos in Australia was produced around 1996, although permaculture and exotic fruit enthusiasts had increasingly grown the fruit around the country from the mid-1970s on.
In New Zealand, about 2,000 tons are produced on 200 hectares of land and exported to the United States, Japan and Europe. For the export, the existing marketing channels developed for the kiwifruit are used.
The tamarillo is also successfully grown at higher elevations of Malaysia and the Philippines, and in Puerto Rico. In the hot tropical lowlands, it develops only small fruits and fruit setting is seldom.
Prior to 1967, the tamarillo was known as the “tree tomato” in New Zealand, but a new name was chosen by the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotions Council in order to distinguish it from the ordinary garden tomato and increase its exotic appeal. The choice is variously explained by similarity to the word “tomato”, the Spanish word “amarillo”, meaning yellow, and a variation on the Māori word “tama”, for “leadership”.
The plant is a fast-growing tree that grows up to 5 meters. Peak production is reached after 4 years, and the life expectancy is about 12 years. The tree usually forms a single upright trunk with lateral branches. The flowers and fruits hang from the lateral branches. The leaves are large, simple and perennial, and have a strong pungent smell. The flowers are pink-white, and form clusters of 10 to 50 flowers. They produce 1 to 6 fruits per cluster. Plants can set fruit without cross-pollination, but the flowers are fragrant and attract insects. Cross-pollination seems to improve fruit set. The roots are shallow and not very pronounced, therefore the plant is not tolerant of drought stress and can be damaged by strong winds. Tamarillos will hybridize with many other solanaceae, though the hybrid fruits will be sterile, and unpalatable in some instances.
The fruits are egg-shaped and about 4-10 centimeters long. Their color varies from yellow and orange to red and almost purple. Sometimes they have dark, longitudinal stripes. Red fruits are more acetous, yellow and orange fruits are sweeter. The flesh has a firm texture and contains more and larger seeds than a common tomato. The fruits are very high in vitamins and iron and low in calories (only about 40 calories per fruit).
|Component [g/100g]||Range||Component [mg/100g]||Range|
|Water content||81–87||Vitamin A||0.32–1.48|