Tomate de Árbol: A Taste of Exotic Brilliance in Every Bite



The Tomate de Árbol, also recognized as the Tree Tomato or Tamarillo, originates from the Andean region of South America. Scientifically termed Solanum betaceum, this vibrant, egg-shaped fruit belongs to the Solanaceae family, encompassing tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants. Celebrated for its unique appearance and rich flavor, it offers numerous health benefits. In this article, we will explore the origin, characteristics, culinary uses, nutritional value, and health advantages of it, presenting a comprehensive overview of this captivating fruit.

Plant origin and regions of cultivation:

The tamarillo is native to the Andes of EcuadorColombiaPeruChileArgentina and Bolivia. Today it is still cultivated in gardens and small orchards for local production, and it is one of the most popular fruits in these regions. Other regions of cultivation are the subtropical areas throughout the world, such as Ethiopia, BurundiKenyaRwandaSouth AfricaNepalHong KongChina, the United StatesAustraliaBhutanNew Zealand and NagalandManipurDarjeeling and Sikkim in India. It has also been seen in Cantabria, a province in Spain.

Characteristics and Varieties:

It is visually striking, with its glossy, smooth skin ranging in colour from deep red and orange to yellow and purple. The fruit typically measures around 5 to 10 centimetres in length and has a slightly pointed end. The inner flesh varies in colour, usually being orange or yellow, and is filled with small, edible seeds.

Several varieties of Tomate de Árbol exist, each with its unique characteristics. Some varieties are sweeter, while others may have a more tangy or tart flavour profile. The diversity in varieties allows for culinary versatility, as the fruit can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.

In 1993, New Zealand produced about 2,000 tons of tamarillos on 200 hectares of land, exporting them to the United States. However, by 2020, the production decreased to 150 tons due to the discovery of the tomato potato psyllid (TPP) in 2006. This led to a decline in volume from 800 tons valued at $3.5 million to 250 tons worth $1.3 million. In 2021, growers sold 414 tons through domestic wholesalers, amounting to $3.1 million, and exported 8 tons to the USA valued at $0.02 million, using marketing channels developed for kiwifruit exports to Japan and Europe.

The tamarillo thrives in higher elevations of Malaysia, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and Puerto Rico. However, in hot tropical lowlands, it yields only small fruits, with fruit setting occurring infrequently.

Before 1967, the fruit was known as the ‘tree tomato’, but the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotions Council renamed it the ‘tamarillo’ to distinguish it from garden tomatoes and enhance its exotic appeal. However, the name ‘tamarillo’ isn’t universally adopted, with different regions assigning it different names.

Culinary Uses:

The Tomate de Árbol, with its harmonious blend of sweetness and acidity, offers versatility in culinary applications. Transitioning to its popular uses, it can be incorporated into a wide range of dishes, adding depth and complexity to recipes. Here are some noteworthy culinary uses of the Tree Tomato:

  1. Fresh Consumption:

The most straightforward way to enjoy Tomate de Árbol is by consuming it fresh. Simply cut the fruit in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. The sweet and tangy flavour makes it a refreshing snack.

2. Juices and Smoothies:

The fruit’s pulpy consistency and vibrant taste make it an excellent addition to juices and smoothies. Blending Tomate de Árbol with other fruits creates a delicious and nutritious beverage.

3. Salsas and Chutneys:

It’s unique flavour profile enhances the taste of salsas and chutneys. It can be diced and mixed with ingredients like onions, cilantro, and chili peppers for a zesty accompaniment to various dishes.

4. Preserves and Jams:

 Due to its natural pectin content, Tomate de Árbol is suitable for making preserves and jams. Boiling the fruit with sugar results in a delightful spread that can be enjoyed on toast or as a topping for desserts.

5. Desserts:

Incorporating Tomate de Árbol into desserts such as cakes, pies, and sorbets adds a distinctive twist. The fruit’s vibrant colour and complex flavour make it a standout ingredient in sweet treats.

Nutritional Value:

Beyond its delectable taste and culinary versatility, the Tomate de Árbol boasts an impressive nutritional profile. Laden with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, this fruit presents a plethora of health benefits. Below is a breakdown of the nutritional components of the Tree Tomato:

1. Vitamins:

It is a good source of vitamin C, providing a significant portion of the recommended daily intake. Vitamin C is essential for immune system function, collagen formation, and antioxidant protection.

2. Minerals:

The fruit contains minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus, which play vital roles in maintaining proper bodily functions, including heart health and bone strength.

3. Dietary Fiber:

Tomate de Árbol is high in dietary fibber, aiding in digestion and promoting a healthy gut. Fiber also contributes to a feeling of fullness, which can be beneficial for weight management.

4. Antioxidants:

The fruit is rich in antioxidants, including carotenoids and flavonoids, which help combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. These compounds contribute to overall health and may play a role in preventing chronic diseases.

5. Low Caloric Content:

 Tomate de Árbol is relatively low in calories, making it a nutritious option for those watching their calorie intake. It provides essential nutrients without contributing significantly to overall caloric intake.

Health Benefits:

The consumption of Tomate de Árbol is associated with several health benefits, making it a valuable addition to a balanced diet. Here are some of the notable health benefits:

1. Immune System Support:

   The high vitamin C content in Tomate de Árbol supports the immune system by promoting the production of white blood cells, enhancing the body’s ability to fight infections.

2. Heart Health:

   Potassium, found in significant amounts in Tree Tomatoes, helps regulate blood pressure. Including Tomate de Árbol in the diet may contribute to cardiovascular health by maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.

3. Digestive Health:

   The dietary fiber in Tomate de Árbol aids digestion and prevents constipation. A fiber-rich diet is associated with a lower risk of digestive issues and promotes a healthy gut microbiome.

4. Antioxidant Protection:

   The antioxidants in Tomate de Árbol neutralize free radicals, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. This may lower the risk of chronic diseases and support overall well-being.

5. Skin Health:

   The combination of vitamin C and antioxidants in Tomate de Árbol promotes skin health by supporting collagen synthesis and protecting against damage from UV rays and environmental pollutants.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

1. Can Tomate de Árbol be eaten with the skin?

While the skin of Tomate de Árbol is edible, some people prefer to remove it due to its slightly bitter taste. If consuming the skin, it’s advisable to wash the fruit thoroughly to remove any contaminants.

2. How do you choose a ripe Tomate de Árbol?

A ripe Tree Tomato should have a firm texture with a slight give when gently squeezed. The skin’s colour may vary depending on the variety, but it should be vibrant and free from wrinkles or blemishes.

3. What is the best way to store Tomate de Árbol?

Store ripe Tomate de Árbol in the refrigerator to prolong its freshness. If the fruit is not fully ripe, it can be left at room temperature to ripen. Once

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