|the Organic Light Garden - © Lloyd Godman
Garden, Victoria Australia
originally I planted one of these trees on the north side of the hill where the sun and heat killed the tree
Recentlyin 2009 I have purchased a yellow fruiting variety and will plant in in a different location.
Cyphomandra betacea Sent.
Common Name: Tamarillo, Tree Tomato, Arbol de Tomate.
Related Species: Casana (Cyphomandra casana), Mountain Tomato (C. crassifolia),
Guava Tamarillo (C. fragrans).
Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopsersicum), Mexican Husk Tomato, Tomatillo
(Physalis ixocarpa), Cape Gooseberry (P. peruviana), Pepino Dulce (Solanum
muricatum), Naranjilla (S. quitoense), Cocona (S. sessiliflorum).
Origin: The tamarillo is
generally believed to be native to the Andes of Peru and probably also,
Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia. It is cultivated and naturalized in Argentina,
Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. It is widely grown in New Zealand as
a commercial crop. Seed from Argentina were imported by the U.S.Dept.
of Agriculture in 1913 and a plant was fruiting at the Plant Introduction
Station at Chico, Calif. in 1915.
Adaptation: The tamarillo
is a subtropical rather than tropical and flourishes between 5,000 and
10,000 ft. in its Andean homeland. In cooler climates it succeeds at
lower elevations, but does best where the temperature remains above
50° F. The plant is grown casually in California and occasionally
in Florida. Tamarillos have been successfully grown in such northern
California locations as San Rafael and Santa Rosa. Frost at 28°
F kills small branches and foliage of mature trees but not the largest
branches and main stem. The tree will recover if such frosts are not
prolonged or frequent. However, seedlings and cuttings are readily killed
by frost during their first year.
Protection from wind is necessary
as the tree is shallow rooted and easily blown over. It is also brittle
and its branches are easily broken by gusts, especially when laden with
fruit. Tamarillos have been grown as housesplants for years. They fruit
satisfactorily in northern greenhouses.
Growth Habit: 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. (rarely as much
as 25 ft.).
Foliage: The alternate, evergreen leaves are muskily odorous and more
or less heart-shaped at the base and ovate, pointed at the apex. They
are 4 to 13-1/2 inches long and 1-1/2 to 4-3/4 inches broad, thin, softly
hairy, with conspicuous veins. The leaves are fairly easily tattered
by strong winds.
Flowers: The fragrant 1/2
to 3/4 inch flowers are borne in small, loose clusters near the branch
tips. They have 5 pale pink or lavender, pointed lobes, 5 prominent
yellow stamens and green-purple calyx. Tamarillo flowers are normally
self-pollinating. If wind is completely cut off so as not to stir branches,
this may adversely affect pollination unless there are bees to transfer
the pollen. Unpollinated flowers will drop prematurely. Flowers are
usually borne in late summer or fall, but may appear at any time.
Fruit: The long-stalked,
dangling fruit, borne singly or in clusters of 3 to 12, is smooth egg-shaped
but pointed at both ends. It ranges in size from 2 to 4 inches long
and 1-1/2 to 2 inches in width. Skin color may be solid deep purple,
blood red, orange or yellow, or red and yellow, and may have faint dark
longitudinal stripes. Flesh color varies accordingly from orange-red
or orange to yellow or cream-yellow. While the skin is somewhat tough
and unpleasant in flavor, the outer layer of the flesh is slightly firm,
succulent and bland, and the pulp surrounding the seed in two lengthwise
compartments is soft, juicy, and sweet/tart. The yellow types are usually
a little sweeter. The pulp is black in dark purple and red fruits and
yellow in yellow and orange fruits. The edible seeds are thin, nearly
flat, circular, larger and harder than those of the true tomato.
Location: The tamarillo is small enough and attractive enough to fit
into many parts of the home landscape as long as the site is well-drained.
They grow best in full sun except in hot, dry situations, where partial
shade is better. They need protection from strong winds.
Soil: Tamarillos require a fertile, light soil that is rich in organic
matter. Perfect drainage is also necessary. Water standing for even
a few days may kill the plant. Because of the shallow root system, deep
cultivation is not possible, but light cultivation to eliminate weeds
Irrigation: The plant cannot
tolerate prolonged drought and must have ample water during dry periods.
A mulch is very beneficial in conserving moisture at such times.
fertilizer applications is 0.5 to 2 lbs. per tree of 5:6:6 NPK. Half
of this should be applied in early spring and the other half in midsummer.
A late winter application of superposphate every other year at the rate
of 0.5 lb. per tree is also beneficial.
Pruning: Newly planted tamarillos
should be pruned to a height of 3 to 4 ft. to encourage branching. Yearly
pruning thereafter is advisable to eliminate branches that have already
fruited and to induce ample new shoots close to the main branches, since
fruit is produced on new growth. Pruning also aids in harvesting, and
if timed properly can extend the total fruiting period.
Frost Protection: Although
tamarillos can tolerate a few degrees of frost, they do best (and look
their best) under frost-free conditions. In areas where frost may be
a problem, providing them with some overhead protection or planting
them next to a wall or a building may be sufficient. The smallish plants
are also fairly easy to cover during cold snaps by placing carpeting,
plastic sheeting, etc. over a frame around them. Potted specimens can
be moved to a frost-secure area.
Propagation: Seeds and cuttings
may be used for propagation. Seeds product a high-branched, erect tree,
while cuttings develop into a shorter, bushy plant with low-lying branches.
The tree does not always come true from seed, but is most likely to
if one is careful to take seed from red fruits with black seed pulp
or yellow fruits with yellow seed pulp. Germination is accelerated by
placing washed and dried seed in a freezer for 24 hours before planting
out. Cuttings should be of 1 to 2 year-old wood 3/8 to l inch thick
and 18 to 30 inches long. The leaves are removed and the base cut square
below a node. Cuttings can be planted directly in the ground, but should
not be permitted to fruit the first year.
Pest and Diseases: The tamarillo
is generally regarded as pest-resistant, although they are occasionally
attacked by green aphids, and fruit flies will attack the fruit in areas
where that is a problem. Nematodes are also a potential problem. The
principal disease is powdery mildew, which may cause serious defoliation
if not controlled. The plant is noted for its resistance to tobacco
mosaic virus, though it is susceptible to cucumber mosaic virus and
potato virus. Die-back, of unknown origin, at times is lethal to the
flowers, fruit cluster, twigs and new shoots. Potted plants grown inside
should be watched for the common house plant pests, such as mealybugs,
cottony scale and white flies.
Harvest: Tamarillos are ready
to harvest when they develop the yellow or red color characteristic
of the particular variety. To harvest, simply pull the fruit from the
tree with a snapping motion, leaving the stem attached. The fruit can
be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 weeks, but temperatures below
38° F can cause the skin to discolor. Ripe tamarillos may be merely
cut in half lengthwise, sprinkled with sugar (and chilled if you like)
and served for eating by scooping out the flesh and pulp. The fruit
should not be cut on a wooden or other permeable surface, as the juice
will make an indelible stain. For other purposes, the skin must be removed,
which is easily done by pouring boiling water over the fruit and letting
it stand for 4 minutes before peeling.
Fruit is medium orange in color, the size of a large hen's egg. Pulp
light orange, creamy in texture, less acid than the Ruby Red. Excellent
for eating out of hand and also suited for culinary purposes.
A superior cultivar originating in New Zealand and recently introduced.
Very large golden-yellow fruit with golden, highly flavored flesh, less
bland than Solid Gold, but not acidic. Has superb earing qualities.
A yellow-fruited cultivar said to be less acid than the red types. When
cooked the fruit is said to resemble the apricot in flavor.
A large fruited red cultivar, oval to rounded in shape, with a sharp
acid flavor. Good quality for eating out of hand and excellent for jams
Unusual large fruit, over 3 ounces. Skin bright red. Flesh golden-yellow,
flavor sweet and exotic. Seeds dark red. Ripen from December to April.
Delicious eaten out of hand. Vigorous and heavy bearing plant. Originated
in San Rafael, Calif.
Large, brilliant red fruit. Pulp dark red, tart and flavorful. Fair
for eating out of hand, but very good for culinary use. If allowed to
ripen for one to three weeks after picking, they will become less acid.
The standard cultivar grown for export in New Zealand.
Large, oval shaped fruit. Skin golden-orange in color. Pulp soft, less
acidic in flavor than Oratia Red. Very good for eating out of hand,
with acceptable culinary qualities.
Fruits the size and shape of a large plum. Skin yellowish orange. Flesh
yellow, with a milder flavor than the red types. The yellow form is
the oldest in cultivation in New Zealand.