Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tomatoes Up a Tree

In my never ending quest to find and grow exotic fruits and vegetables, I have stumbled across a doosey to introduce to you today.
Cyphomandra betacea or Tree Tomato. It is also known as the Tamarillo.
It is generally believed to be native to Peru and probably also, Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia. It is a subtropical fruit that does best where the temperature remains above 50 degrees. It is hardy to 25 degrees however.
The Tamarillo is a small, attractive, half-woody, evergreen or partially deciduous, shrub or small tree. It is also brittle and shallow-rooted, growing to a height of 10 to 18 ft. In colder climates it makes an excellent container grown plant.
They have 5 lobed, pale pink or lavender, fragrant flowers that are self pollinating. Flowers are usually produced in late Summer or early Fall, but may appear at any time.
The skin is somewhat tough and unpleasant in flavor, but the pulp surrounding the seed is soft, juicy, and sweet/tart. There are red varieties and yellow ones. The yellow types are usually a little sweeter.
They grow best in full sun, except where it is very hot and windy. Afternoon shade will be a benefit.
Tamarillos need a VERY well drained soil, they can not tolerate drought and must have ample water during dry periods. This being said, Water standing for even a few days may kill the plant. Drainage is crucial.
Newly planted, they should be pruned to a height of 3 to 4 feet to encourage branching.
Propagation is from seeds, cuttings or grafting.
If you are interested in obtaining some seeds of this fascinating fruit, check out this website:

Here is what one of the Red varieties looks like:

One of the Yellow varieties:

Don't they look yummy!?
Ripe Tamarillos can be sliced in half lengthwise, sprinkled with sugar (and chilled if you like) and served by scooping out the flesh and pulp. They are deemed ripe when they develop the yellow or red color characteristic of the particular variety.
I soon will be getting some seeds, hopefully for both colors. I am in the process of working out a seed trade. I love trading. If you love experimenting with exotic fruits and veggies, I would suggest getting some Tamarillos. If nothing else, think of the fun you can have with your neighbors. What do you think of my Tomato tree, George?
Happy Growing!

1 comment:

  1. These look so interesting. What is the flavor like? They look like they could ornamental as well as edible :)