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Yellow and red tamarillos
Yellow and red tamarillos
Plant Info
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Scientific classification
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Kingdom: Plantae
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Division: Tracheobionta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
Sublass: Asteridae
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Superorder: {{{superordo}}}
Order: Solanales
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Superfamily: {{{superfamilia}}}
Family: Solanaceae
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Genus: Solanum
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Species: S. betaceum
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Binomial name
Solanum betaceum
Trinomial name
Type Species

The Tamarillo, Tree Tomato, or Tomate de árbol (Solanum betaceum, syn. Cyphomandra betacea) belongs to the flowering plant family Solanaceae. It grows as a small tree or shrub, bearing edible egg-shaped fruit with a thin skin and a soft flesh (when ripe), with dark-colored seeds occupying about one third of the interior. The fruit closely resembles a tomato, hence its name. The tamarillo was once in its own genus, called Cyphomandra, but is now in the same genus as the tomato - Solanum - both are in the same family, Solanaceae.


The fruit can be between 2 and 8 cm in length. They are held on the tree in clusters as are many other clustered fruit, such as cherries. The trees are grown from cuttings and are very frost-tender when young. They are shallow-rooted and respond to deep mulching and abundant water. The tree can grow to a little more than 6 meters but it is subject to wind damage and needs shelter. It will bear fruit after two years and a single mature tree in good soil will carry more fruit than a normal family can eat for about 3 months. A happy tree can produce up to 66kg of fruit in a year. When the tree is about 1 to 1.5 meters in height it is advisable to cut the roots on one side and lean the tree to the other (direction of the midday sun at about 30 to 45 degrees). This allows fruiting branches to grow from all along the trunk rather than just at the top.

The tamarillo is native to the Andes of Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia. It is cultivated in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, the United States, Venezuela, Portugal and Indonesia where it is known as “'terong Belanda'” or ”Dutch eggplant”. It is grown as a commercial crop for international export in New Zealand and Portugal.

Tamarillos as food

The fruit is eaten by scooping the flesh from a halved fruit but, in New Zealand, children palpate the ripe fruit until it is soft then bite off the stem end and squeeze the flesh directly into their mouths. When lightly sugared and cooled, the flesh makes a refreshing breakfast dish. In addition, they give a unique flavor when compoted or added to stews and curries. They are also tasty and decorative in fresh salads. In Colombia and Ecuador, fresh tamarillos are frequently blended together with water and sugar to make a juice.

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