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June 16 2020

Fruit of the Month - Tamarillos

Just like L&P, Kiwiburgers and hokey pokey icecream, tamarillos are "world-famous in NZ." While they are known and grown in other countries, it's we humble kiwis who renamed them, transforming them from a boring old tree tomato to an exotic-sounding tamarillo.

So, how did this exotic fruit become a backyard staple?

Adopted by kiwis up and down the country, the tamarillo has had quite the journey in our history.

With an exquisite mix of tangy and sweet, tamarillos are super versatile and can sit equally well in savoury or sugary dishes.

Since tamarillo season is in full swing, let's celebrate this month's fruit by learning more about it.


Exotic Origins

Tamarillos originate in South America, mostly from the Andean regions of Bolivia, Argentina and other nearby countries. There, they are known as the tomate de árbol. Closely related to tomatoes (obviously), eggplants, potatoes and capsicums, tamarillos arrived in New Zealand sometime in the late 1800s. However, they remained relatively obscure until WWII. Fresh fruit was hard to come across, and the tree tomato (still named such at the time) began its path to glory.

You may not know that initially, tamarillos were only available in yellow/purple strains. The red variety that is so widely popular today was developed by an Auckland nurseryman in the 1920s.

The name change was down to the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotions Council. They wanted to give the fruit an image overhaul. It is rumoured that "tama" refers to leadership in the Maori language, and "rillo" comes from the Spanish word for yellow.

Now, this fruit is one of the country's largest commercial crops. We export around 2000 tonnes every year. Because they don't do well in overly hot or cold areas, they mainly grow in coastal regions in the north of the country.


Health Benefits

Tamarillos are pleasingly low in calories. They have a substantial amount of dietary fibre (one will give you about nine percent of your daily intake), and contain decent amounts of potassium, vitamins A, C, E and pro-vitamin A, along with antioxidants.

People with diabetes will be pleased to learn that the chlorogenic acid found in tamarillos can help lower blood sugar levels in type-II diabetes.

While science hasn't backed the following fact up, in Ecuador, heated tamarillo leaves are wrapped around those suffering from tonsillitis to treat inflammation and pain. Could be worth a try!


How To Eat Tamarillos

Tamarillos are excellent for making chutney, sauce, relish and jelly because of the pectin they contain.

Many people enjoy them raw, simply slicing them in half and using a teaspoon to scoop out the tangy insides. These insides are slightly more tangy in the red varieties. If that bitterness is a little too much for you, try sprinkling them with a little brown sugar.

If you think tamarillos are delicious raw, wait till you try them cooked! Poaching them with a little syrup, brown sugar or cinnamon reveals a delicious, flavourful mouth experience.

For more inspiration, slice up a tamarillo and add it to a fruit salad, chuck it in a smoothie, bake some in a cake or crumble, or roast them alongside your Sunday pork roast for something different. This breakfast crumble is a particularly delicious way to enjoy your tamarillos!


It is tamarillo season, as such it means that we have them available in our store! Head on over and browse the in-season fruit collection now!