THE TOMATO THAT GROWS ON TREES
The Tamarillo (Solanum betacuem) is a fruit native to the Andes of Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Bolivia that is used frequently by locals. It has become popular as well outside its native range with important cultivation in New Zealand as a prime example. Interestingly the introduction of its more exotic current name came about in 1967 when a council in New Zealand decided to change its name from tree tomato to its current tamarillo. The fruit was known by this more common name because it belongs to the same family as the tomato but for exportation purposes a new name was considered necessary.
The fruits come from a tree that can reach around 5m tall with large leaves and a pungent smell. Generally it starts fruiting around 4 years. What makes the Tamarillo stand out are the distinctive egg shaped fruit that come in a range of colours.
THE FLAVOUR PROFILE
The flavour profile of the Tamarillo pulp is actually quite unique. It blends the flavours of passionfruit, kiwi, tomato and cucumber. It can be described as tangy and complex. The skin is tough, bitter and very sour so really it is best to concentrate on the slightly sweeter more delicious inside. The red fruits are more acidic compared to the yellow and orange types which have a sweeter flavour profile.
It is important to note that when buying Tamarillo you have to be aware of the variety you are getting. In a similar fashion to bell peppers, the colour is not an indicator of ripeness. To tell if the fruit is ready to eat, the best way is to touch the skin and if there is a slight give the Tamarillo should be ready.
Another excellent quality of the fruit is it’s high pectin that can be used in preserves, marmalades and jams. Tamarillos are high in potassium, manganese, copper and vitamins A, C, E and B6.
FLAVOUR COMBINATION SUGGESTIONS
The best way to eat the fruit is by scooping the flesh from a halved fruit. In New Zealand where the Tamarillo became commercialised people enjoy spreading the pulp across toast for breakfast.
Fresh tamarillos are frequently blended together with water and sugar to make a juice. This is very popular in various Latin American countries and in Asia. An interesting use to add them to stews (e.g. Boeuf Bourguignon), hollandaise, chutneys and curries. Desserts using this fruit include bavarois and strudel. In India the fruit is used to make sharp, usually pungent dips and chutneys.
In Ecuador, the tamarillo, known as tomate de árbol, is blended with chili peppers to make a hot sauce commonly consumed with local dishes of the Andean region.
- Choose fruit that has few blemishes and has a strong colouration.
- It is recommended to not use the skin of the tamarillo unless it is to be made into a preserve.