The tamarillo is a small tree or shrub in the flowering plant family Solanaceae. It is best known as the species that bears the tamarillo, an egg-shaped edible fruit. It is also known as the tree tomato.
The plant is a fast-growing tree that grows up to 5 metres. Peak production is reached after 4 years, and the life expectancy is about 12 years. The tree usually forms a single upright trunk with lateral branches. The flowers and fruits hang from the lateral branches. The leaves are large, simple and perennial, and have a strong pungent smell.
The flowers are pink-white, and form clusters of 10 to 50 flowers. They produce 1 to 6 fruits per cluster. Plants can set fruit without cross-pollination, but the flowers are fragrant and attract insects.
The roots are shallow and not very pronounced, therefore the plant is not tolerant of drought stress and can be damaged by strong winds. It can be successfully grown in containers. Tamarillos need to be planted in a warm, sunny and sheltered site. The roots absolutely hate wet feet, so the soil should be very free-draining.
The fruits are egg-shaped and about 4-10 centimeters long. The seeds on offer is for the red, almost purple variety of tamarillo. They have dark, longitudinal stripes on the fruit, before maturing. The flesh has a firm texture and contains more and larger seeds than a common tomato.The fruits are very high in vitamins and iron and low in calories. The flesh of the tamarillo can be eaten fresh or made into a range of sweet and savoury dishes and condiments. Tamarillos are tangy and usually sweet, with a bold and complex flavour. The fruit can be stewed to use on cereal or as a pie or crumble filling, added to stews and casseroles or made into a delicious chutney, which is especially good with chillies.
In spring, place the seeds in a freezer for 24 hours to speed up germination, then sow the seeds about 10mm deep in a tray of fine soil, in a warm propagator between 24-29 degrees. When the seedlings are about 5cm tall, carefully transplant into 7-10cm pots. Once the seedlings have grown to around 20cm tall, transplant again into a larger pot. It should remain in this pot until the plant is strong enough to be planted in the garden and when there is no risk of frost.