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Tamarillo, also known as the tree tomato, is a small, oval-shaped fruit native to the Andes mountains in South America. With its vibrant red skin and juicy, sweet-tart flesh, tamarillo has become a popular ingredient in many cuisines around the world. In this article, we will delve into the history, characteristics, cultivation, uses, and nutritional benefits of this fascinating fruit.


The name “tamarillo” is derived from the Spanish word “tomate de árbol,” meaning “tree tomato.” This refers to the fruit’s tomato-like appearance and its growth on a small tree. In other languages, tamarillo is known as “tomate de monte” (mountain tomato) in Spanish, “pomme de terre” (earth apple) in French, and “tamatillo” in Portuguese.


Tamarillo is a small, deciduous shrub or tree that grows up to 5 meters (16 feet) in height. Its leaves are simple, alternate, and elliptical, with a pointed tip and serrated edges. The fruit is a berry, with a thin, edible skin that ranges in color from yellow to red to purple. The flesh is juicy and pulpy, with a sweet-tart taste and a single seed in the center.

Taxonomy and Cultivars

Tamarillo belongs to the Solanaceae family, which includes potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers. There are several cultivars of tamarillo, including:

RedMost common variety, with bright red skin and sweet-tart flesh
YellowYellow skin, sweeter and less acidic than red variety
PurpleDeep purple skin, sweet and slightly sweet-tart flesh
GoldenGolden yellow skin, sweet and juicy flesh

Distribution and Habitat

Tamarillo is native to the Andes mountains in South America, specifically in present-day Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. It grows in subtropical and temperate regions, at elevations of 1,500 to 3,000 meters (4,900 to 9,800 feet) above sea level. Today, tamarillo is cultivated in many countries, including New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.


Tamarillo is a relatively easy fruit to cultivate, requiring well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. It is typically propagated through cuttings or seedlings and takes 1-2 years to produce fruit. Regular pruning is necessary to maintain the tree’s shape and promote fruiting.

Production and Uses

Tamarillo is a popular ingredient in many cuisines, particularly in Latin American and Asian cooking. It is used in:

  • Salads, sauces, and marinades
  • Soups and stews
  • Stir-fries and sautés
  • Jams, preserves, and chutneys
  • Juices and smoothies
CountryProduction (tons)
New Zealand20,000


Tamarillo contains a range of bioactive compounds, including:

  • Flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol)
  • Phenolic acids (gallic acid, ellagic acid)
  • Carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein)
  • Vitamins (C, K, potassium)


Tamarillo’s flavor is often described as sweet-tart, with hints of strawberry, cherry, and citrus. The fruit’s acidity level varies depending on the cultivar, with some varieties being sweeter and others more acidic.


Tamarillo contains a toxic compound called solanine, which can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if consumed in large quantities. However, cooking or processing the fruit can reduce its toxicity.


Tamarillo is a nutrient-rich fruit, providing:

  • High amounts of vitamin C and potassium
  • Good source of dietary fiber and antioxidants
  • Low in calories and fat


Tamarillo has significant cultural and historical importance in the Andean region. In traditional medicine, the fruit is used to treat various ailments, including fever, diarrhea, and respiratory issues. In modern times, tamarillo has become a popular ingredient in fusion cuisine, blending traditional Andean flavors with international culinary techniques.

“In the Andes, tamarillo is more than just a fruit – it’s a symbol of resilience and adaptation.” – Maria Rodriguez, Andean food blogger


Tamarillo is a fascinating fruit with a rich history, unique characteristics, and diverse uses.