An Introduction to Tamarillos and How to Make Jam With Them
The Tamarillo Tree
Tamarillos are native to South and Central America. The tamarillo is also known as tree tomato probably because it resembles a red egg-shaped tomato. It also has a yellow or orange colored variety that tastes a lot sweeter than the red. The tamarillo tree is fast growing and will bear fruits in 18 months. It grows up to around two metres in height and has a lifespan of around seven years. Though some trees do grow up to fifteen years, they will start losing leaves more often than growing them after seven years. They may still produce some fruits but are not as prolific as before.The trunk of the tamarillo tree is rather soft and can be pruned quite easily. The branches tend to bend and droop when they are laden with fruits. During the fruiting season, the weight of the fruits will cause the branches to break if the branches are not provided with some support.
The leaves are big (about 20cm in length), heart-shaped and covered with tiny hairs. The tree grows well in well-drained soil that is rich and moist. Lack of water will stunt the plant and kill it. Small pink flowers start to form in spring and early summer. They develop into fruits in a few weeks and the fruits begin to grow until autumn or winter. Overall, the tree can tolerate some frosts but the leaves will turn black and limp if they are exposed to very cold temperatures for a long period of time.
Tamarillos can be easily propagated by cuttings and seeds. The branch cuttings are propagated by dipping one end of the branches into rooting hormone before planting them in moist soil. Seeds are germinated by burying them in well-drained soil in small pots. Once propagated, the cuttings or seedlings will grow quickly when they are given a dose of liquid fertilizer every two weeks. The seedlings can be planted in the ground when they are strong enough and they will bear fruits in less than two years. Not only that, you will get buckets of fruits that will probably take months to consume. Freshly harvested fruits can be kept at room temperature for a couple of weeks. They can also stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few weeks.
Even though tamarillos are becoming more popular in the markets when they are in season, these exotic fruits are still unknown to a lot of people who are not so keen to try them. At the cost of around two dollars per fruit, most people would rather buy two kilos of pre-packed oranges for two dollars.
The tamarillo fruit is oval in shape and measures up to 8cm long and 6cm wide. It looks very appealing with smooth and shiny skin on the outside. The fruit is rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. It is very low in calories. Like most fruits, it can be eaten after harvesting. The outer part of the fruit is bitter so the skin is not to be eaten. The tamarillo can be cut in half and the flesh scooped out with a spoon, it is just like eating kiwi fruit. The color of the flesh inside is similar to the color of the skin. There are some small seeds inside and they can be eaten as well. The flesh is juicy and has an acquired taste, some people prefer to eat tamarillos with a dash of sugar.
Tamarillos can be used in cooking, baking, salads, desserts or made into jam or sauce. Tamarillo sauce tastes almost like tomato sauce because of the tartness, but tamarillos are more tasty in flavour.
The pictures below are my tamarillo trees. The red tamarillo was grown from a cutting while the yellow was grown from seeds. Both grew well and started producing fruits in their second year. Red tamarillos are more prolific than yellow tamarillos, that explains why the red fruits are more common and easily available in the markets.
How to Make Tamarillo Jam
If you get a bountiful harvest of tamarillos, the fruits can be cooked and stored for later use. Tamarillo jam is delicious and nutritious. The natural citric acids in the fruit itself act as preservatives and the jam can be stored in sterilized glass jars for a long time.
- 2½ kg tamarillos
- 2 kg sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Juice of one lemon
- Clean sterilised bottles
- Scoop out the flesh of the tamarillos with a spoon. Discard the skin as it is bitter and not edible. Chop the tamarillos finely.
- Place the tamarillos in a pot with the lemon juice and water.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer until the fruit is soft.
- Lower the heat and add in sugar and stir until the sugar dissolve. Next, add in the butter and stir until the butter melts. Increase the heat and continue to cook the jam until it boils.
- Lower the heat a little and continue cooking. Keep stirring to prevent the jam from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The cooking should take more than 30 minutes.
- The mixture should start to thicken. Check the consistency of the jam and stop cooking when you are happy with the thickness.
- Pour the jam into the clean bottles and seal. Store in a dark, cool place.
To serve, spread generously on toasts, muffins or crackers.
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Tamarillo Nutrition Facts
|Serving size: 100g|
|Calories from Fat||0|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 0 g|
|Carbohydrates 4 g||1%|
|Fiber 3 g||12%|
|Protein 2 g||4%|
|Cholesterol 0 mg|
|Sodium 1 mg|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
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