Ever Heard of Tree Tomatoes!

Tree tomatoes or Tamarillos made an appearance in my Bangalore home last week. This juicy, sweet, and citric fruit had managed to escape my memory altogether. No clue how that happened, given that Tamarillos belong to those exotic category of things that I intrinsically associate with my hometown, Shillong.

Naturally, I was delighted to spot them spread out on the floor along with several other vegetables including Chayote and neatly pieced Pumpkin.

Pic 1: The reddish orange Tamarillos peeping through Chayote and Pumpkin

All of these had travelled a distance of about 3000 Km. all the way from the hills of North East India to the Deccan Plateau in South India. Strange, you may think, but such a thing is common when my parents come visiting me.

My disapproval in the past regarding the uselessness of carrying additional baggage has had no effect on them especially my father, who takes great pride in displaying the produce of his kitchen garden. I have since made peace and if this gives them pleasure so be it.

tom w
Pic 2: The egg-shaped ripe Tamarillo

This time my parents were surprised with my enthusiasm over their extra baggage, which was only because of those reddish-orange oval fruits. [I have no clue whether to classify it as a vegetable or a fruit. I believe technically it’s a fruit but known as a vegetable.]

Back home, we also refer to tree tomatoes as Anda-Begun, which literally translates as ‘egg-eggplant’. Not surprising, afterall it’s a close relative of tomato, eggplant, and capsicum.

I am not sure many people in India are aware of this unique fruit and hence this post.

Ripe tree tomatoes have a smooth and shiny skin. The colour varies from red to yellow to deep mauve. Some even adorn dark longitudinal stripes.

Tom open
Pic 3: Aren’t they gorgeous!

The flesh is juicy and filled with many small flat, circular edible seeds. The taste is flavorful, sweet yet tangy, and the texture is somewhat similar to the usual tomatoes but pulpier. Tamarillo has a high content of Vitamin A and C.

Google says Tamarillos or Cyphomandra betacea are a subtropical fruit, thought to have originated in the high altitude Andes forests of Brazil and Peru. Surprisingly, Tamarillos have disappeared from their native habitat and happen to be listed among the lost foods of the Incas, known as the ‘tomate de arbol’. It was in 1967 that tree tomato got the commercial name of Tamarillo, which was to avoid confusion with the common garden tomato.

In India, tree tomatoes grow between elevations of 1,000 and 7,500 ft. Hence, their occurrence in places like Assam, Meghalaya, Uttaranchal, Nagaland, and Himachal Pradesh is understandable. They are also found in certain hilly pockets of West Bengal, Maharashtra, and in the Nilgiri hills of the South India. The latter did make me wonder as to why I never saw the fruit in Bangalore.

Pic 4: The mouthwatering Tamarillo Chutney

At home, we usually prepare Tamarillos as a chutney and serve with rice or roti as a side dish. The chutney can be refrigerated and consumed between 10 – 12 days. We have also used Tamarillos in preparing fish, which surely must be attributed to my Bengali lineage!

Pic 5: Here’s the recipe for you

Author: neelstoria

Traveling, Gardening, Trekking, Hiking, Storytelling, Writing, Nature, Outdoors, Yoga, DIY

32 thoughts on “Ever Heard of Tree Tomatoes!”

    1. I suppose you are going to Shillong during Christmas. If yes, you aren’t likely to see tree tomatoes as they are seasonal, they grow around the time of Jul/Aug – Oct/Nov. 🙂
      As for Chayote, there are so many ways we eat them – boiled with ghee and rice, batter fried, without batter fry, in mixed veg, then chayote and potato, chayote with fish, and chayote kheer too! You are giving me ideas though 🙂
      Can’t wait to read your posts on Shillong.

      Liked by 2 people

            1. There aren’t many vegetables during the winter, in fact hardly any. Even the chayote plant dries up. So, seeing indigenous vegetables will depend on your luck. The best season is autumn. You would have also loved to see fruits like sohyiog and sophore. I do plan to write about these but haven’t been there during the season.

              Liked by 1 person

  1. Living in an international city like Toronto, I see so many fruits and vegetables and the names and shapes of these look so familiar. But like many of them, I had no idea what they were or what they taste like. This is very intriguing – that chutney looks beautiful. That, alone, made me want to try tamarillos.

    I love that your dad fills his suitcase with vegetables from his kitchen garden. That tells such a story about his personality, his passion and his love for you just in that simple and beautiful detail. It is poetic how much information you were able to transfer just through that one little sentence.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I hope you do try Tamarillos. I just love them. Besides the chutney, you can also roast them, remove the skin and prepare like Eggplant Bharta, which you surely would have tasted in India.
      Thank you so much for such a lovely note about my father. His passion for gardening both vegetables and flowers is a great inspiration for us all. In fact whenever he stays away from his home for long (these days mostly on visiting me), the flowers and plants back home do look droopy, as if missing his presence.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh so good. Though having grown up in the Northeast, had no clue. And the recipe so simple and nice. Ask kakima if these can be replaced with any other sour fruit.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve never heard of tree tomatoes but they sure seem tasty. Can they be had raw, like tomatoes? I love to have tomatoes like that, with a few coriander leaver thrown in for good measure. I’m not much of a spicy food lover, though the odd dish is okay.

    Liked by 2 people

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