Tamarillos - Cyphomandra betacea
The Tamarillo is a native of the Andrean Region of Peru South America and was introduced to New Zealand from plants grown in India in 1891. It is a member of the Tomato family producing many large egg shaped fruits ready to harvest in autumn and winter.
Often called the Tree Tomato in NZ it is quite popular as a fresh fruit. Two varieties are grown, red fruited and yellow fruited. Flavour can be quite tart to some people but for others it is a fresh tasting highly flavoured fruit when eaten raw. It can be used as a stewed fruit as a filling or even poached and decorated as a desert. The yellow varieties are milder in flavour.
It is a subtropical plant and tolerates only very light frosts requiring warmer climates or special microclimates. It is grown commercially in the northern parts of New Zealand.
Growing is quite easy as it copes with a variety of soil types provided it does not get wet feet. The large leaves are easily damaged by wind.
Once established it grows quite quickly with thick soft branches. Good training of a strong branch system is important to support the leaves and weight of fruit. They flower on fruit on new seasons growth which means pruning in early to late spring to get the longest growing season possible.
Harvest fruit from late autumn through to early spring. Fruit ripening will depend on local conditions and the time pruning took place. Early pruning in spring will give an early crop with later pruning giving a later crop.
Common pests and diseases include whitefly, aphids, looper caterpillar and powdery mildew.
Tamarillos are great talking points in the garden their large leaves make an impressive statement. While the flowers are small and sometimes insignificant the fruit makes a fine display and a great talking point.