Native to tropical America, the tamarillo is a member of the Solanaceae family along with potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants. It produces shiny red or yellow egg-shaped fruit which tastes like a cross between a passionfruit and a tomato. Only the pulp is edible – the skin is very bitter.
Common name: Tamarillo or Tree Tomato
Botanic name: Cyphomandra betacea
Description: Bushy, evergreen shrub which grows to 3 metres (10′) or more. The leaves are large and heart-shaped, with red new growth. Pale pink flowers in spring and summer are followed by the fruit in autumn. Each plant can bear 15-20kg of fruit every year.
Best climate: Warm, protected, frost-free areas
easy to grow
tangy, edible fruit
The branches are very brittle and may snap, so protection from wind is necessary.
Tamarillos are susceptible to fruit fly attack and a control program should be put in place in areas where the pest is found.
Care: Tamarillos need a well-drained, fertile soil high in organic material. Mulch, fertilise and keep well watered. Pinch out growing tips at about 1 metre (3′) high to encourage branching. Prune lightly after fruiting.
eat fresh (a sprinkle of sugar helps to combat the tartness)
add to fruit salads
make Tamarillo jam
make Tamarillo mousse (without the seeds)
stew and serve as a dessert with cream or ice-cream
add salad dressing to make a savory dish
(Tip: when cooking Tamarillos, first dip the fruit in boiling water for 10-20 seconds and the skin will peel off easily.)
Tamarillos are available at nurseries in the warmer months of the year. Expect to pay around $8.95 for 150mm (6″) pots, and $14.95 for 200mm (8″) pots. Grafted plants cost about $24.95 for 200mm (8″) pots.
This can be made up to one day ahead. It should be covered and refrigerated. Don’t freeze.
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup plain sugar
- 1/4 cup milk
- 4 tamarillos
- 2 teaspoons gelatine
- 2 tablespoons water
- 300ml carton thickened cream
Separate the 2 eggs and whisk yolks and sugar until thick. Add milk and stir over low heat without boiling until slightly thickened. Allow to cool. Process or blend 3 peeled tamarillos until smooth. Strain and add to egg yolk mixture.
Sprinkle gelatine over cold water and dissolve over hot water. Cool, add to tamarillo mixture. Beat cream until soft peaks form. Fold tamarillo mixture into 3/4 of the cream.
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and fold gently into mixture. Spoon into four individual dishes, refrigerate until set. Use remaining cream and slice remaining tamarillo to decorate.