Resembling the tomato is looks and size, the tamarillo is often called the “tree tomato.” Although they originated in Central and South America, they have all but disappeared from their native country. Almost all tamarillos found today are from New Zealand. To avoid confusion with the tomato, its name was officially changed to tamarillo in 1967. They range in color from a beautiful crimson red to amber, purple and golden yellow, making them lovely to display as well as eat.
Tamarillos do bear some resemblance to tomatoes in taste as well as appearance. The fruit is rather tangy and tart, and sweeter than a tomato. It is often compared to plum, passionfruit, mango and apricot. Unlike the tomato, the outer skin is tough and quite bitter, and should never be eaten. Inside, the slightly firm fruit contains edible seeds that are a bit harder than those found in tomatoes.
Like so many specialty fruits, the tamarillo is both good to eat and good for you. They are a good source of vitamins A, C and B6, as well as vitamin E. Some important minerals are also found in tamarillos, such as potassium, manganese and copper. Because potassium is helpful for preventing blood pressure, tamarillos are often recommended to those needing to monitor their blood pressure and cholesterol.
How to Eat
Because of the bitterness of the skin, tamarillos must always be peeled before eating. But because the outer skin is quite tough, many simply cut the tamarillo in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. They can also be peeled and sliced. Because of their sweet and tangy flavor, tamarillos work well in both sweet and savory dishes. They can be added to desserts as a topping. Or they can be paired with cheese, meats or casseroles.
Tamarillos are hardier than some of the other specialty fruits, and can be left at room temperature for up to a week. Or keep them in the refrigerator after they have ripened, and they will easily last for two weeks. It is also possible to freeze tamarillos, but they must be peeled first. One easy way to remove the skin is to put them in a bowl, cover with boiling water for a couple of minutes, and then drain. The skins should slip right off.