The tamarillo or tree tomato originates in South America, probably in the Peruvian Andes, although this is not certain, as it is a cultivated plant and not found in the wild. It is called the tree tomato because of its fruit which do look like plum tomatoes. The tamarillo got this name when it was taken to New Zealand in 1891. The name is from the Spanish for yellow, amarillo and the‘t’ is for tomato. It is a member of the Solanaceae family so is a relative of the tomato, aubergine, tomatillo, nipple fruit, Cape gooseberry and Belladonna or deadly nightshade. It is also sometimes called the ‘tomarillo’ and has other Latin synonyms too, including Solanum betaceum-Cav. Cyphomandra hartwegi-Sendt and is one of thirty Cyphomandra species.
  Before the beginning of the twentieth century it was being cultivated in the Indian subcontinent, East Africa, Malaya and Sri Lanka, as well as parts of Indonesia. Now it is cultivated in China, Australia, the Philippines, South Africa and the US among other countries.
  Its flowers are pinky white through to lavender, and the fruits may be purple-red, orange, yellow and some have stripes running down their skins. The sweetest are the yellow and orange ones, and when you slice them open they have black seeds inside, so they resemble passion fruit and have been mistaken for an egg-shaped persimmon. The tree is fast growing and reaches peak production of fruit at four years old. The fruits hang from the branches and 1-6 of them come from a cluster of flowers that may be comprised of between 10 and 50. Leaves have a faintly musky smell and are evergreen.
  The red fruit contain the most lycopene, which is found in watermelons and tomatoes, and gives them their red colour, while the yellow and orange ones typically contain the most beta-carotene. Lycopene is associated with prostate health, so the red, tarter tamarillos are good to help prevent prostate problems.
  Tamarillos can be eaten raw, scooped out of their skins, or cooked and used in stews and sauces; you can substitute them for tomatoes in hot chilli sauces. They can also be baked or grilled and can be sprinkled with sugar to make them taste sweeter. They are high in pectin, so are ideal for making jam and can also be pickled or used to make chutneys- the red ones are generally best for this. They can be eaten with ice cream, or made into a compote and grilled, go well with meat, chicken or fish as a side vegetable. You can make a refreshing drink by peeling them (put them in boiling water for a few minutes, then dip them in cold, as you would a tomato), then adding sugar and water.
  Tamarillos contain vitamins A, C, and some of the B-complex vitamins, as well as the minerals phosphorous (a lot of phosphorous is in the seeds), calcium, iron, magnesium, and sodium.
  The anthocyanins contained in the darker tamarillos especially, are also found in cranberries, red cabbage, black grapes, blackberries, bilberries and blueberries and have potent antioxidant properties (as do the vitamins tamarillos contain), which help combat scavenging free-radicals which can cause cancer and cardio-vascular disease. They also have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties and can help stave off diabetes, neurological diseases, the aging process and cancer as already mentioned.
  In other words, the tamarillo is packed full of nutrients and is beneficial for our health.

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