• Egg shaped but pointed at both ends.
  • 5-10cm in length.
  • Smooth skin may be deep purple, blood red, orange or yellow and may have dark longitudinal stripes.
  • Flesh can be orange/red, orange/yellow or cream/yellow.
  • Skin is tough and unpleasant in flavour, the outer layer of flesh is slightly firm, succulent and bland.
  • The pulp surrounding the seeds is soft, juicy, subacid/sweet.
  • The seeds are thin, circular, large and bitter.
  • The flavour of the pulp is like a combination of tomato and passionfruit.

The tamarillo is a small tree which grows to about 3-4m in height. It is half-woody, attractive, fast-growing and is shallow rooted. The leaves are evergreen, alternate, more or less heart-shaped at the base, ovate, pointed at the apex. Borne in small, loose clusters near the branch tips, the fragrant flowers have five pale pink or lavender, pointed lobes, five prominent yellow stamens and a green-purple calyx.

The tamarillo is a subtropical shrub. The plant prefers a light, well-drained soil. It is highly intolerant to excess soil moisture and rapidly succumbs when the soil is water logged. On the other hand, its large, soft leaves and shallow rooting system causes it to react unfavourably to drought conditions. It needs ample moisture during summer.

The large leaves and extremely brittle wood of the tamarillo make it very prone to damage by wind. When they are heavily laden with fruit the branches will break off easily, even in quite light winds. Good shelter is therefore essential, and permanent windbreaks should be established at least 2-3 years before tamarillo plants are set out.

The tamarillo is easily propagated from seed or cuttings. Plants from seed generally develop with a straight main stem of up to 1.5-1.8m before they branch. The cuttings produce lower, bushy plants, with branches down to the ground level.

Tamarillo flowers are normally self-pollinating but the flowers are attractive to bees and insect pollination undoubtedly occurs as well.

The tamarillo is the best known of about 30 species of this family. It has been known by a multitude of regional names including tree tomato and tomate, but was given the name tamarillo in 1970 in New Zealand and this has been adopted as the standard commercial designation. The name change was made to provide a more appealing and exotic name, especially for export promotion.

The plant is a native of the Andean region of Peru. Although the tamarillo is esteemed in its original South American home and has grown in other parts of the world, such as Sri Lanka, India, the South East Asian Archipelago, and elsewhere, it seems that only in New Zealand is the fruit being produced on a systematic commercial scale. It was D. Hay and Sons, nurserymen, who introduced the tree tomato into New Zealand in 1891 with commercial growing on a small scale being in about 1920. Shortages of tropical fruits during World War II justified an increased level of production.

Botanical Name: Cyphomandra betarea (Solanaceae)

Alternative Names: Tree Tomato

Health Benefits

Tamarillos are a good source of vitamin C and dietary fibre. They also contain some vitamin A and potassium.
100g of Tamarillo yields the following:

  • Calories – 31
  • Total Carbs – 3% of DV
  • Protein – 2g
  • Dietary Fibre – 9% of DV
  • Vitamin A – 21% of DV
  • Vitamin C – 50% of DV
  • Calcium – 1% of DV
  • Iron – 7% of DV

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Selecting tips

Select well shaped fruit with good colour, be it red, yellow or purple depending upon variety. The fruit should have fresh green stems and yield to gentle pressure to indicate it is ripe and ready for eating. Avoid fruit with any soft spots or bruises.

Enjoy fresh simply by cutting in half, sprinkling with sugar and scooping out the pulp. Slices or halves can be seasoned and grilled for 10-15 minutes and served as a vegetable. Do not cut on a wooden or other permeable surface, as the juice will make an indelible stain. To remove the skin, pour boiling water over the fruit and allow it to stand for 34 minutes, then peel by beginning at the stem end. Use as an ingredient in a stuffing for roast lamb. Combine with apple in a variety of desserts. Use to make jams, chutneys and sauces.

Storage: Ripen at room temperature and store in the refrigerator for a short time.

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