Solanaceae (Nightshade family)

The flesh is usually red, purple, orange-red, or yellow, succulent with a mildly sweet to subacid pulp.

Description. Small tree or shrub 3-5 m (10-16 ft) tall. Alternate, ovate leaves, soft, hairy, 12-35 cm (5-14 in) long by 5-13 cm (2-5.2 in) wide with prominent veins and a heart-shaped base. Pink or light purple flowers are borne in clusters at tips of branches. Pendent fruits egg-shaped with pointed tips, 5-10 cm (2-4 in) long with persistent calyx. Leathery skin purple, red, yellow, orange, or sometimes with dark longitudinal stripes. Flesh usually red, purple, orange-red, or yellow, succulent with a mildly sweet to subacid pulp surrounding numerous flat seeds. The flavor of this fruit is reminiscent of both the kiwi and a slightly underripe tomato.

Origin and Distribution. The tree tomato is native to the Andes of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. At the equator, it grows in a mountainous, subtropical climate at elevations between 1,500 and 3,000 m (5,000-10,000 ft); in subtropical countries, it grows at sea level and can withstand light frosts. The fruit is widely cultivated throughout the Andes of South America as well as in New Zealand and Portugal.

Food uses. This fruit is used in many sweet and savory dishes and recipes. Halved and sugared fruits are often scooped as a breakfast fruit. In South America, the pulp is blended with ice, sugar, and water or with milk to prepare delicious beverages. Peeled fruits are used raw in salads and boiled as a vegetable in a variety of savory dishes. Seeded and peeled fruits are used in chutneys, dips, sandwich spreads, curries, stews, pickles, jams, and sweet or savory sauces. In Ecuador, a spicy tree tomato sauce is made by blending the seeded pulp with onions, garlic, chilies, salt, and spices like coriander. The flesh is cooked together with apples to make filling for pies and strudels.

Comments. The tree tomato is sometimes sold under the name tamarillo. This artificial name was chosen by the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotion Council in 1967 to promote the fruit internationally. It is a synthesis of the word tomato and the Spanish word amarillo, meaning “yellow.” In Latin America, the fruit is known as tomate de drbol.

Description. Evergreen, sparsely branched, very slender tree, 8-10 m (26-33 ft) tall, with leaves whorled at the tips of the branches. Alternate, compound, hairy leaves 60-80 cm (24-32 in) long with a winged rachis and leaflets 10-30 cm (4-12 in) long by 4-10 cm (1.6-4 in) wide, with irregularly toothed margins. New leaves are bright reddish-pink in color. Reddish-brown flowers are produced in pendulous clusters. Dark burgundy, fleshy, oval fruits 3-6 cm (1.2-2.4 in) long have 2 pyrenes containing a single seed each. Fruits are produced in large clusters on branches and trunk. The juicy pulp has an acidic taste.

Food uses. The very acidic fruits are used to make jams, juices, and sauces for sweet and savory dishes. The juice is sometimes fermented to make a winelike beverage. The intensely colored, reddish-purple juice is used as food coloring in desserts, ice cream, and drinks.

Comments. The tree is not related to the plum (Prunus sp.) despite the similar appearance of the fruit. It is currently under study for its high antioxidant activity.

Origin and Distribution. Native to tropical rainforests of Queensland in northeastern Australia south to New South Wales, where it grows from sea level to about 800 m (2,600 ft). A second, smaller variety called D. pruriens var. jerseyana, which is highly endangered in the wild, grows naturally in northeastern New South Wales. The tree is occasionally cultivated as a dooryard tree.

Benefits Of: TREE TOMATO TAMARILLO Photo Gallery


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