Look! Up in the Tree! It’s a Plum…No, It’s a Tomato…No, It’s a Tamarillo!

When first seen, those who don’t know better immediately think the tamarillo is some kind of tomato. And who can blame them?  They are about the size of a tomato.  They are about the same shape as a tomato:  oval shaped with a small point at the end.  They have the same smooth, glossy skin of a tomato.  They come in bright, tomato-like colors of deep red, yellow and purple.  And they are even popularly known as tree tomatoes.

But one bite of this beautiful, juicy fruit, particularly if it includes the skin, will quickly educate the taster that the tamarillo is in a class quite distinct from the tomato.

So, Just What Does a Tamarillo Taste Like?

Actually, the flesh of a tamarillo does have a texture and flavor reminiscent of tomatoes.  Tangy but somewhat sweeter than tomatoes, its flavor has been compared to passion fruit, plum, mango and apricot.  The key to properly eating a tamarillo is to avoid eating the skin.  If you bite into one, skin and all, you will be in for a rather unpleasant surprise.  It can be quite bitter with an aftertaste that will have you running for something to clean your palate.

Some Interesting Facts

Origins of the Tamarillo

Details about the origin of the tamarillo are not really known, but they are believed to be from Central and South America.  Most likely they originated from the Andes of Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Columbia and Bolivia.  One of the largest producers of the tamarillo is New Zealand, where the fruit was introduced in the 1800s.

Where Does the Name Come From?

The tamarillo is widely known as the tree tomato throughout the world, except in New Zealand.  In fact, the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotions Council came up with the new name back in 1967 as a way to avoid confusion between the tamarillo and tomatoes.  It is thought the word was derived from the Maori word “tama,” which means leadership, and the Spanish word “amarillo,” which means yellow.

Nutrition Information

The tamarillo has many health benefits because it is a good source of antioxidants.  They are also high in potassium and vitamin C, as well as vitamins A, B6 and E.  Tamarillos are believed to be good for those needing to lower their blood pressure and cholesterol.

Eating the Tamarillo

To eat a raw tamarillo, simply slice the fruit in half, take a spoon and scoop out the insides.  Removing the skin is very easy.  Simply pour boiling water over the whole fruit, let it sit for a few minutes, and then follow up with a cold water rinse.  Make a small cut into the fruit with a knife, and the skin will simply slip off.

A very versatile fruit, the tamarillo can be used in many of the same ways as the tomato.  Peeled and sliced, they can be made into salsas, chutneys, added to salads or even as a topping for ice cream.  Tamarillos also do well cooked in sauces, or added to stews or curries.  One traditional Andean way of preparing them is to take the peeled fruit and blend it with some ice, a bit of milk and some sugar, resulting in a refreshing drink.

So go ahead and enjoy this beautiful and tasty fruit, if you are able to find it!  Those living in New Zealand are lucky to have the tamarillo in abundance when this fruit is in season from March through October.