Tamarillos are really tree tomatoes – ask the Incas

Glowing tamarillos – in season in New Zealand now.

Tamarillo crumble – scrumptious.

I was pretty pleased when Yvonne walked in with five perfect tamarillos the other day. The generosity of the gift and the rich red colour of the fruit warmed a cold Hamilton day. Dessert for our dinner guests was sorted – individual servings of granny smith apple and tamarillo crumble, with the crumble topping dressed up with cinnamon and slivered almonds, and the whole shebang topped with half a blanched and skinned tamarillo with its stalk on (just for a bit of je ne sais quoi – you wouldn’t eat the stalk. One Master Chef judge purses his little lips when presented with food decorated with something you wouldn’t eat, but I choose to ignore him.)

Dad used to grow tamarillos in the garden in Auckland when I was a child – except we knew them as tree tomatoes. He’d halve them, sprinkle them with brown sugar and scoop them out of their skins. I still harbour some resentment for the marketer who, in 1967, interfered with my nostalgic association of Dad with his tree tomatoes by changing the fruit’s name to tamarillo – a made-up word that isn’t descriptive of anything much. The Incas who used to eat the fruit before it became lost from its native Central and South American habitat had it right. They called it the ‘tomate de arbol’ pepper. I notice Mr Microsoft has never heard of tamarillos, but is happy to accept tree tomato.

Fresh, raw tamarillos can be a bit sharp in flavour. Slicing them and scattering them with raw sugar makes them taste luscious and not too sweet. They are the perfect fruit for chutney making for those who have a ready supply. However, as they are sold as a luxury item in our local supermarket with a price tag to match, most of us are compelled to use them more sparingly.

Kiwicommunicator would like to know about your favourite tamarillo dish.

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16 thoughts on “Tamarillos are really tree tomatoes – ask the Incas

  1. Ana says:

    I like tamarillos just cut in half, the flesh scooped out with a teaspoon and eaten just as is but I do like sharp flavours. We haven’t had any tamarillos since we’ve been in the US but we do have a prolific cherry tree in our backyard and we’re going to try to make cherry pie for tomorrow’s 4th July celebrations. Fingers crossed it turns out ok because we don’t do much baking around here!

  2. Certainly tamarillos are healthier that way. I so much envy you that cherry tree. Happy cherry pie baking – and eating!

  3. VJ says:

    That crumble looks amazing!

  4. sybaritica says:

    I really hope they make it my way one of these days!

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