This smooth, egg-shaped sub-tropical fruit originated in South America. And to avoid confusion with the common tomato in New Zealand, its name was changed from tree tomato to tamarillo in the late 1960s. Tamarillos grow well in warm climates in New Zealand – mainly in coastal areas, in the North Island where there is less frost.
Tamarillos can be red (with black seeds), amber (the sweetest variety) or gold (large and fleshy). Ripe fruit are fully coloured right up to the stalk, a little soft to the touch and with a slightly yellowing green stalk.
Store tamarillos at room temperature for up to one week – or in the fridge for up to three weeks. Peeled whole tamarillos and tamarillo purée can be frozen.
Tamarillos are low in energy and high in fibre, high in potassium and low in sodium. Both red and gold tamarillos are a good source of vitamins A ,B6, C and E. The red colour of the tamarillo is from pigments called anthocyanins and carotenoids. These compounds are powerful antioxidants which help to protect against the harmful effects of free radicals.
When handling tamarillos, don’t cut the fruit on a surface such as wood as the juice stains. As a raw fruit, scoop flesh out of a cut half and sprinkle with a little sugar if you wish (don’t eat the skin). To remove skin easily before using, pour over boiling water and let fruit stand for four minutes before making a small cut with a knife to slip the skin off. Add sliced fruit to sandwiches and salads to create interest. Or use tamarillo slices to decorate cakes, cheesecakes – even pizza. The strong acidic taste of red tamarillos suit sweet and savoury dishes. Tamarillos are great in sauces, soups, chutneys, stews, jams, juices and jellies. For a sweet grill, sprinkle over a little sugar for a caramel topping, or for a savoury twist, top with a smudge of garlic butter then grill. And for a classic dessert, poach whole, peeled tamarillos until soft in red wine with a little sugar added and serve with yoghurt.
Did you know? The tamarillo is related to the eggplant, tomato and capsicum.