Tamarillo (Tree Tomato)

Tamarillos or tree tomatoes are egg-shaped fruits native to South America. Being from San Francisco I had never heard of them until two weeks ago when I found them at my favorite farmers market.

That day I only bought one. The next week I got a full bag of them.

I will not deny that these little fruits are strange. The color alone could be the topic of an entire post. Their flesh is orange like a persimmon, but the soft black seeds are nested in a deep red gel, making it seem as if they are bleeding when you cut them open. Although that sounds kind of gruesome, they are actually beautiful to behold. If I were a food painter, I would certainly seek out some tamarillos to be my subjects.

The taste of my first tamarillo surprised me even more than its appearance. I had expected it to be, well, I’m not sure, but the person I bought it from said it is usually served with either sugar or salt, like a tomato. I guess I was expecting it to be more savory or acidic. In my estimation it was closer to sweet, and seemed to perfectly meld the flavors of passion fruit, kiwi and tomato.

If your mouth is watering now and you think you would like to have a go at growing your own tamarillos, here are some tips for finding the perfect spot. Tamarillos need to be planted in a warm, sunny and sheltered site. The roots absolutely hate wet feet, so the soil should be very free-draining.

If there are any concerns about drainage, plant on a mound or ridge to raise the roots up.  The site must be protected from wind as the branches are brittle and the shallow roots cannot support a tree that is rocking around, especially when loaded with a heavy crop. Tamarillos are frost-tender plants, so only very light frosts will be tolerated.

The trees will grow to around 3m tall by 2m wide, so will fit into most gardens.

The areas where tamarillos generally grow well are Northland, Auckland, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty.

They will also do well in frost-free parts of Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu, Marlborough, Nelson and the West Coast. In marginal regions, tamarillos can be grown indoors in a greenhouse, but care must be taken to control aphids and whitefly in this environment.

The best time to plant tamarillos is in spring when all risk of frost has passed. Incorporate compost and blood and bone into the soil when planting. Apply three doses of specialist fruit tree fertiliser each summer: the first a month after planting, the second one a month after that, and the last dose in February.

Water the plant regularly over summer, especially during dry spells. Tamarillos need plenty of water as the large, soft leaves transpire moisture quickly and the fruit needs adequate and regular watering to develop well.

The new growth will produce flowers in summer and early autumn.

Tamarillo flowers are self-fertile, but will crop better if cross-pollinated by bees and wind moving the pollen between flowers.  During summer, keep the area around the base of the tree weed-free to avoid competition for moisture and nutrients with the shallow roots of the tamarillo.

Don’t cultivate the soil or underplant with any companion plants; instead, apply a mulch to keep the area weed-free, moisture-retaining and nutrient-rich.

HARVESTING

Tamarillos will produce fruit 18 to 20 months after a spring planting – so they are unlikely to crop in the first winter. But they should produce a good crop in the second winter after planting.

The peak harvest months are usually July and August, but the fruit can be ready slightly earlier or later depending on the variety, climate and pruning.

Pick the fruit when the skin develops a rich colour – red, orange or gold, depending on the variety of course – using secateurs to snip the stem.

Tamarillos will keep in the fridge for around two weeks, or about one week in a fruit bowl. One or two plants is usually sufficient for a family, with an expected yield of 15-20kg per plant.

PRUNING

For pruning a young plant, take out the tip of the main leader when it is about 1m tall, which will encourage branching. Light frosts will naturally prune your tree, so remove old and dead wood after frosts in spring. In frost-free locations, prune growth to prevent overcrowding.

On more mature trees, keep branches to an open framework and cut back any long, lanky branches by half after the fruit has been harvested. Remove any basal growth – that is, branches growing at or around ground level.

Because fruit is produced on new spring growth, complete all pruning after harvest in frost-free areas or in spring after the risk of frost has passed in sites prone to it.

1. Promotes digestion

Tamarillo contains high dietary fiber that can improve digestion function. Eating tamarillo regularly can help bowel movement and increase the nutrient absorption inside the body.

2. Relieve constipation

Fiber in tamarillo is not only can improve digestion but it can help to relieve unconfortable feeling due to hard defecation process. The fiber constent in tamarillo can increase bulk on stomach and sogften it. This will make the stool easier to pass the colon or large intestines.

3. Prevent cancer

Tamarillo contains high antioxidant level which can protect the body from developing almost all types of cancer. The total antioxidant in tamarillo based on ORAC value is 1659 per 100 gr fresh tamarillo. The main antioxidant in tamarillo are the pigment athocyanins, poplyphenolic, flavonoid and chlorogenic acid. Those antioxidant protect all body cells from any damage that caused by free radical infection that leads to DNA mutation. DNA damage is the beginning of the cancer cells development.

4. Prevent diabetes

Tamarillo contains fiber that can stabilize the blood sugar level within the body and it also a food with low glycemic index that didn’t cause the riss of blood sugar. Tamarillo also contains chlorogenic acid that play important role in delay the onset of diabetes and increase insulin sensitiivity. Consuming tamarillo can significantly help to prevent the development of diabetes especially type 2 diabetes.

5. Improve vision

Tamarillo is excelent source of caratenoids and Vitamin A. Those may protect the eyes from any damages that caused by external or internal factors. Vitamin A in tamarillo also can maintain and improve healthy vision, it also prevent the eyes from developing cataract and prevent aging on eye that called as macula degeneration.

6. Increase metabolism

Tamarillo contains various vitamin B complex that are important in maintaining healthy metabolism. Vitamin B complexs are the key of of several metabolic enzyme which can improve energy production to provide the body cells with sufficient energy.

7. Lower blood pressure

In 100 gr of tamarillo fruit you can get 321 mg of potassium. This amount of potassium can help to maintain normal heart beat and blood pressure. This make tamarillo a great snack for hypertension patients.

8. Prevent anemia

Tamarillo is completed with iron and it can prevent the body from development anemia since it is the main mineral that is part of the red blood cells. . Anemia is body condition that can cause weakness and several problem to human health. Anemia occur due to lack of red blood cell that responsible in transferring oxygen and nutrients to the all part of the body.

9. Maintain healthy skin

Due to high of vitamin C, tamarillo can help to keep skin tight, firm, bright and young. Who doesnt want to get this benefits? By consuming tamarillo regularly it is not impossible to get beauty skin. Tamarillo also packed with vitamin E taht is important in keep skin elasticity. Both vitamin C and vitamin E can promotes the production of collagens within skin tissue and collagen is known as aging fighter.

10. Help in weight loss

Tamarillo is a low calorie food that will make a great snack during your diet period. It also high in dietary fiber which want to cut down the fat cell within the body. You can just eaten the fruit raw or make it as juice to get this benefits.

11. Treat tonsililis

Tonsilitis is a disorder which attack the lymph node or tonsil within the mouth. Tonsilitis happen due to inflammation which caused by several factors such as infection of bacteria or disorder of lymphatic nodes itself. Colombian people believe that tamarillo can be used to treat tonsilitis.

12. Reduce cholesterol

Health Benefits of Tamarillo Fruits also best choices for reduce cholesterol level. Tamarillo contains fiber that can increase the good cholesterol and decrease the level of bad fat or cholesterol within the body. Consuming tamarillo after eating high cholesterol food or along the meal can help you to reduce the effect of cholesterol.

13. Prevent atherosclerosis

As tamarillo can reduce the cholesterol inside the body so it also give benefits in protect the arteries lining from developing plaque or aggregation which can cause arteries thickening or atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is one factor that increase the risk of heart disease.

14. Prevent heart disease

Reducing cholesterol, prevent atheroscleoris, lower blood pressure, these package makes tamarillo as one of good food to maintain healthy heart function. Tamarillo also contains potassium and manganese which important to keep normal heart beat and rhytm.

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 31 Kcal 1.5%
Carbohydrates 3.8 g 3%
Protein 2 g 4%
Total Fat 0.36 g 1.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 3.3 g 9%
Vitamins
Folates 4 µg 1%
Niacin 0.271 mg 1.5%
Pyridoxine 0.198 mg 15%
Thiamin 0.043 mg 3.5%
Vitamin A 630 IU (189.17 µg) 21%
Vitamin C 29.8 mg 50%
Vitamin E 2.09 mg 14%
Electrolytes
Sodium 1.44 mg <1%
Potassium 321 mg 7%
Minerals
Calcium 10.7 mg 1%
Copper 0.051 mg 5.5%
Iron 0.57 mg 7%
Magnesium 20.6 mg 5%
Manganese 114 µg 5%
Phosphorus 38.9 mg 5.5%
Selenium 0.1 µg <1%
Zinc 0.15 mg 1%
Phyto-nutrients
Carotene-ß 600 µg
Carotene-α 10 µg
Cryptoxanthin 1059 µg
Lycopene 0 µg

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