All About Tamarillos

Don’t be fooled by the appearance (or the names) of Tamarillos… Learn how to prepare Tamarillos/Tree Tomatoes/Sachatomates, and discover their versatile sweet, slightly acidic flavor that complements everything from sweets to salsas to savory dishes! Read on for everything you ever wanted to know (and some you didn’t want to know🤣) about this obscure fruit…

A wood cutting board with 2 tamarillos/tree tomatoes and a chef knife after peeling and halving.

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – About Tree Tomatoes

As I mentioned in my tamarillo tarts recipe last week, I first had tree tomatoes (aka tamarillo, sachatomate) at the Wayra Restaurant in Urubamba, Cuzco, Peru in this grilled scallops with sachatomate (local tomato tree) butter. The seared scallops were presented on the half shell on a puddle of savory tamarillo butter. Wow! It made quite an impression!

I was excited to find Goya tamarillo pulp in the freezer section of my Latin market several weeks ago, and grabbed a few packages because I knew I wanted to play with the ingredient. On a whim, I walked down the produce aisle, and lo and behold, Ruben’s had fresh “tomate de arbol,” one of many names for this delicious tropical fruit.

Scallop in sachatomate/tamarillo/tree tomato sauce Peru 2022
Grilled scallops with sachatomate (local tomato tree) butter at Wayra in Urubamba, Peru…

🍑About Tamarillo/Tree Tomato Fruit

Given my propensity for introducing my readers to new ingredients, I decided it’s time to dedicate some of my time on education. I would venture to guess most of my readers are not familiar with this fresh, healthy, and unique ingredient.

So, what is tamarillo?

Tamarillo (Solanum betaceum), also known as tree tomato, tomate de arbol, and sachatomate, is a fruit-bearing plant native to South America but also cultivated in other parts of the world. The fruit is about the size of a large egg and has smooth, shiny skin that can be red, orange, or yellow. The flesh of the tamarillo is juicy and tangy with many small, edible seeds (like kiwi).

Tamarillo is used in both raw and cooked preparations. It can be eaten fresh as a snack or used in salads, smoothies, and desserts. It can also be cooked and used as a topping for ice cream or yogurt, or made into a sauce or chutney in savory preparations.

Where did tamarillo/tree tomato originate?

The tamarillo is native to the Andes Mountains of South America, particularly in Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Ecuador. It was first cultivated by the Incas, who used it both for its nutritional value and medicinal properties. On Peruvian menus, it is usually referred to sachatomate in Spanish, or tree tomato in English. In our border region of Texas, it is more typical to see it called tamarillo.

The tamarillo was later introduced to other parts of the world, including New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa, where it became popular due to its unique flavor and nutritional benefits. In New Zealand, the fruit was extensively grown during the 1900s and became a significant export crop until the 1960s. However, its popularity declined in the 1970s due to the high cost of production and competition from other fruits.

Today, tamarillo is still cultivated in various parts of the world, including South America, New Zealand, Australia, and some African countries. It is often used in a variety of dishes, including jams, chutneys, sauces, and desserts. The fruit is also rich in nutrients, including vitamins A and C, and is considered to have many health benefits.

What does tamarillo taste like?

I describe the flavor of tamarillo as tangy, tart, and slightly sweet. While it does remind me of a tomato in some respects, it has a more complex and fruity flavor profile. Some people describe a slightly bitter or astringent aftertaste, but if so, it is very subtle. The texture of tamarillo is juicy and somewhat pulpy, with many small edible seeds.

🍅 Are they healthy?

Yes, tamarillo is considered to be a healthy fruit. Some of the health benefits of tamarillo include:

  • High in vitamin C: Tamarillo is an excellent source of vitamin C, which is essential for a healthy immune system, skin, and tissue repair.
  • Good source of vitamin A: Tamarillo is also rich in vitamin A, which is important for vision health and immune function.
  • High in fiber: Tamarillo is a good source of dietary fiber, which helps to promote digestion and can help to lower cholesterol levels.
  • Rich in antioxidants: Tamarillo contains several antioxidants, including carotenoids and phenolic compounds, which help to protect against oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • Low in calories: Tamarillo is a low-calorie fruit, making it a good choice for those trying to maintain a healthy weight.

Overall, tamarillo can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet and can provide several health benefits when consumed regularly. NOTE: Tamarillo is a member of the nightshade family and contains solanine, which can be toxic in large quantities. The solanine content is highest in unripe tamarillos and in the leaves and stems of the plant. It is important to only consume ripe tamarillos, and avoid the leaves and stems.

📹 How to Prepare Tamarillos Video

I apologize in advance for the poor quality of the video. I was really struggling with both my gear and the lighting on a very “partly cloudy” kind of day. It was the last of my fresh tamarillos, so I couldn’t re-shoot the video. It does get the point across, albeit a bit rough!

❓ FAQ

How should I store fresh tamarillo?

Like tomatoes, fresh tamarillos should be stored at room temperature until they are fully ripe, which may take several days. Once they are ripe, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to a week. If you have a large quantity of tamarillos, and want to store them for a longer period of time, you can freeze them.
To freeze tamarillos, peel and remove the seeds, then cut them into quarters or slices, and place them in a freezer-safe container or bag. Frozen tamarillos can be stored for up to 8 months. Whe you are ready to use them, thaw the tamarillos in the refrigerator or use them directly from the freezer in recipes that call for cooked or blended fruit. You can also buy whole frozen tamarillos and tamarillo pulp in many Latin markets.

Is tamarillo skin edible?

The skin is fairly thick, but if it’s ripe, you can eat it. However, I don’t really recommend eating it as it can be tough and slightly bitter.

🥗 What kinds of recipes can I use tamarillo in?

Tamarillos are versatile fruits that can be used in a variety of sweet and savory recipes. Here are some ideas:

  • tamarillo salsa – I have a tamarillo salsa in the works that pairs well with grilled poultry or fish, but it’s particularly good in fish or chicken tacos!
  • tamarillo sauce – I recently posted this salmon with tamarillo sauce, and it is really delicious. While the recipe specifies frozen tamarillo pulp, the fresh fruit would be next level. Prepare the tamarillo as shown, then pulse in a blender until smooth. Proceed according to the recipe instructions.
  • tamarillo chutney – Cook diced tamarillo with sugar, vinegar, onion, ginger, and spices to make a flavorful chutney that can be served with curry dishes, cheese, or roasted meats.
  • tamarillo smoothie – Blend ripe tamarillo with banana, yogurt, honey, and ice to make a refreshing and nutritious smoothie.
  • tamarillo jam – Cook diced tamarillo with sugar, lemon juice, and pectin to make a delicious jam that can be spread on toast or used as a filling for cakes and pastries.
  • tamarillo salad – Combine sliced tamarillo with mixed greens, avocado, red onion, and a vinaigrette dressing for a colorful and flavorful salad. I used tamarillos in this salad.
  • tamarillo sorbet – Blend ripe tamarillo with sugar and water, freeze in an ice cream maker, and serve as a refreshing dessert.

These are just a few ideas, but tamarillo can be used in many other recipes as well, including pies, tarts, and sauces.

I realize this is an ingredient many (if not most) of you are completely unfamiliar with. It is my hope that I can introduce you to new, healthy, delicious ingredients (like prickly pears), show you how to use them, and “broaden your horizons.” If you have come across an interesting or unknown ingredient, I’d love to hear from you at tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com or the “Comments” box below!

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

A collage of tamarillo illustrating how to prepare tamarillo/tree tomato.

How to Prepare Tamarillos

How to prepare fresh tamarillos for use in salsas, sauces, salads, etc.
5 from 1 vote

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Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Ingredient
Cuisine Peruvian
Servings 4 servings
Calories 31 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • fresh tamarillos
  • water

Instructions

  • Using a very sharp paring knife, cut an X on the blossom (opposite the stem) end of the tamarillo through the thick skin. Reference the video in the Post. Repeat for all of the tamarillos.
  • Cover the tamarillos with boiling water. Submerge so that the fruit is completely covered. Allow the fruit to soak a minimum of 15 minutes. The longer the fruit is exposed to the hot water, the easier it is to peel.
  • Drain water, and allow the fruit to cool until they can be handled. Using that sharp paring knife, insert under the skin and peel it off. It should come off fairly easily. Repeat.
  • Slice off the stems. Using a sharp chef's knife, slice in half lengthwise. Proceed according to your recipe.

Notes

One 100g serving has just 31 calories!

Nutrition

Serving: 1fruit | Calories: 31kcal

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com

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