What is a Tamarillo? You’ve probably seen or heard of Tamarillos before; you just may not have realized it. This fruit have remained a popular seasonal treat due to their unique flavor and nutritional qualities. I love Tamarillos, they taste so good. My most common memory of them is simply cutting them in half and sprinkling each half with white sugar and then scooping out the flesh with a spoon, straight into my mouth! If you’ve never had this intoxicating and luscious fruit, you must try it as soon as possible.
Cyphomandra betacea belongs to the flowering plant family Solanaceae. Also known as Tamarillo, this exotic edible fruit is native to South America, specifically Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. Also cultivated in Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya, Rwanda, Portugal and the United States. The word Tamarillo is believed to come from several languages “tomato”, the Spanish word “amarillo”, meaning yellow, and a variation on the Maori word “tama”, meaning “leadership”. The plant was introduced to New Zealand in 1891 by the Auckland nursery D. Hay & Sons. At first only yellow and purple fruiting varieties were grown. It was there that the name “tree tomato” was replaced by Tamarillo. The name was made official in New Zealand on January 31, 1963.
Tamarillos can grow up to 3-5 m high and a spread of 1.5-2.5 m wide. They grow well and are productive at temperatures of 68-82 F. The flowers are small, pale pink and fragrant. The long-stalked, dangling fruit, borne singly or in clusters of 3 to 12, is smooth egg-shaped but pointed at both ends. It ranges in size from 2 to 4 inches long and 1-1/2 to 2 inches in width. Skin color may be solid deep purple, blood red, orange or yellow. Flesh color varies accordingly from orange-red or orange to yellow or cream-yellow. While the skin is somewhat tough and unpleasant in flavor, the outer layer of the flesh is slightly firm and the pulp surrounding the seed in two lengthwise compartments is soft, juicy, and sweet/tart.
Tamarillos offer a unique alternative to tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables in salads and side dishes. Can be eaten raw or used as the fresh fruit in all basic fruit recipes from cheesecakes to apple crumble, from ice cream and sherbets to fruit sauces, chutneys, jams, jellies, and pickles. Sliced on pizzas, toast and in sandwiches or added to casseroles and even lightly fried as a steak accompaniment. They contain lots of potassium as well as 40mg of vitamin C per 100 grams, which makes them excellent source of Vitamin C.
Although somewhat difficult to find, Tamarillos are available in some Traders’ Joe stores and Latin markets. Raw or cooked, Tamarillos require peeling as the skin is bitter and high in tannins. Use a vegetable peeler or immerse fruit in boiling water a minute or two. Plunge in ice water; pierce skin and slide it off.
½ cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
½ cup milk
100g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
3 tamarillos, peeled and chopped
1 tamarillo, peeled and thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 200C. Line and lightly grease 10-12 muffin cups. Sift together sugar, flour and baking powder. In another bowl, combine egg, milk, melted butter and vanilla. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Add chopped Tamarillos. Pour batter into muffin cups and top with a slice of Tamarillo. Bake 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the muffins.
Remove skins of tamarillos by immersing in boiling water. Chop tamarillos. Roughly slice lemon. Place in large saucepan. Add water. Boil 30 minutes. Strain fruit. Leave overnight. Add 3/4 cup sugar to each 1 cup liquid. Boil steadily for 25 to 45 minutes. Cool and test if set. Pour into jars and seal.
5 Tamarillos, fresh or frozen
2 ajies or hot peppers (serranos or red chilies are good options, habaneros if you are very brave)
2 tbs finely chopped white onion
1 tbs finely chopped cilantro
1 tbs lime or lemon juice
¼ cup water
Salt to taste
If using fresh tree tomatoes peel them, boil them for about 5 minutes to make it easier to peel them. If using frozen tree tomatoes, defrost them over night in the fridge, then cut them in half and scoop out all the insides. Blend the tree tomatoes with the hot peppers (seeded and deveined if you want it very mild, you can always save a few seeds and add them in if it’s too mild).
Transfer the blended mix of tree tomatoes and hot peppers to a small sauce pan, add the water (you can add more if you want a more liquid sauce) and cook on medium heat for about 5-8 minutes. Add the onion, lime juice, cilantro and salt to taste.
Serve warm or cold.