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What Is A Tamarillo?

by | Jan 14, 2009

Tamarillos or tree tomatoes are egg-shaped fruits native to South America. Being from San Francisco I had never heard of them until two weeks ago when I found them at my favorite farmers market.

That day I only bought one. The next week I got a full bag of them.

I will not deny that these little fruits are strange. The color alone could be the topic of an entire post. Their flesh is orange like a persimmon, but the soft black seeds are nested in a deep red gel, making it seem as if they are bleeding when you cut them open. Although that sounds kind of gruesome, they are actually beautiful to behold. If I were a food painter, I would certainly seek out some tamarillos to be my subjects.

The taste of my first tamarillo surprised me even more than its appearance. I had expected it to be, well, I’m not sure, but the person I bought it from said it is usually served with either sugar or salt, like a tomato. I guess I was expecting it to be more savory or acidic. In my estimation it was closer to sweet, and seemed to perfectly meld the flavors of passion fruit, kiwi and tomato.

Strange, but delicious.

Unfortunately the skin does not lend itself to palatability. It is tough, bitter and very sour. Best to do away with it completely. The seeds, however, are edible.

Unripe a tamarillo can lean toward sour and bitter, so I am told it is best to eat them when they are dark red and softer rather than harder (they never get very soft).

Tamarillos are high in potassium, manganese, copper and vitamins A, C, E and B6.

All I know is that I am going to keep buying them until I can’t find anymore.

Do any of you have experience with tamarillos?

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