(Solanum betaceum, formerly Cyphomandra betacea or C. crassicaulis – Family Solanaceae)
Tamarillo, tree tomato, jambolan, java plum
tomate de árbol (Latin America), tomate arbol (Spanish), tomate (Mexico and Central America), tomate d’arbre (French), Baum-Tomate (German), tomateiro-da-serra (Portuguese), puutomaatti (Finnish), kodachitomato (Japanese)
Although called jambolan and Java plum, the tamarillo is not the same fruit as the other by the same name. They are from entirely different families. This is often the case when dealing with fruits from various countries.
The tamarillo (pronounced tam-a-REE-yo) was first cultivated by Peruvians; but it can now be found in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, East Africa, and California.
A close relative of the tomato, potato, and eggplant, the tamarillo is also cultivated in New Zealand. It was there that the name “kiwi” replaced the former name of the Chinese gooseberry. That proved so successful that they turned to the tree tomato and began calling it “tamarillo”. The name was made official in New Zealand on January 31, 1963; and once again, the new name caught on and is now widely used. Despite its popularity elsewhere, and as usual, the tamarillo still needs to prove itself to Americans.
Tamarillos are rich in beta carotene and Vitamin E, with moderate levels of Vitamin C. The fruits are egg-shaped, about two inches long, with smooth reddish-yellow or all yellow skins.
They are borne in clusters of three or more, with each fruit containing two lobes filled with a multitude of black seeds. The succulent red or yellow pulp has a flavour that is rich and sweet, but with some acidity.
The dark red strain,
called black, is the most popular; but the yellow strain is considered better for preserving because of its superior flavour.
do not have the dark pigment around the seeds, and the flesh retains its yellow colour after cooking.
Tamarillos are ripe when soft to the touch; but the tannin-containing, very bitter skins have to be removed before eating. This is accomplished by plunging the fruit into boiling water for about three minutes and then into ice water.
Tamarillos can then be made into toppings by combining them with other cooked fruits, used in pies, or made into chutneys and jams. They can be stewed or dipped into honey and grilled. They also make an excellent sweet and sour sauce or used in fruit salads.
This fast-growing evergreen tree
has large, heart-shaped leaves, clusters of caramel-scented white flowers and an excellent fruit tree for small gardens in warmer temperate zones, but it can also be grown under glass in colder regions.
Many cultivars have been developed as a result of grower selection; and, since the plants are easily grown from seed, many different characteristics develop, resulting in newer names. Because of this, they do not have official cultivar status.
Most varieties are red; but some of the more popular ones of either colour include Amberlea Gold, Bold Gold, Goldmine, (sometimes blushed with red and having an exceptionally sweet taste), Oratia Red (is large with a deep red skin), Red Beau (is oval-shaped with red skin), and Red Delight (is a large red-skinned variety with moderate flavour).