Passion fruit meets the tomato — or so this fruit has been described. Some claim it is similar to the tomato, while others say it is sweeter, tangy and tart. Often called tree tomato, these all are at least partially correct when it comes to the tamarillo.
The tamarillo grows in clusters, similar to the tomato, but is more oblong or egg-shaped. Some liken its shape to a small eggplant. Unlike the tomato or eggplant, however, the skin has a bitter taste that most find unpleasant. Therefore, peeling the skin before eating is recommended.
The tamarillo is a wonderful addition to chutneys, sauces, salads, sandwiches and soups. Additionally, pies, cakes and even ice cream lay claim to using the fruit as a way to offer some delicious flavor to these sweet treats — but just what is a tamarillo, and what can it do for your health? Turns out quite a bit, as this unique fruit has been shown to help the heart, eyes, metabolism and more.
What Is Tamarillo? Tamarillo Fruit Benefits
- Helps Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease
- Regulates Blood Pressure
- Supports Eye Health
- May Help You Live Longer
- Boosts Metabolism
1. Helps Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease
As laboratory research out of Malaysia shows, tamarillo contains “contains good proportions of soluble fibre, protein, starch, anthocyanins and carotenoids.” (1) The anthocyanins and carotenoids in particular are especially beneficial to heart health.
For example, carotenoids can help lower coronary heart disease risk “by lowering of blood pressure, reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines and markers of inflammation (such as C-reactive protein), and improvement of insulin sensitivity in muscle, liver, and adipose tissues.” (2)
In addition, epidemiological studies have linked consumption of foods with anthocyanins and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease markers. Take, for instance, research published in the Journal of Nutrition that found anthocyanin-rich food consumptions displayed the ability to protect the heart in rats. (3, 4)
2. Regulates Blood Pressure
Varieties of the tamarillo plant were studied by researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Researchers from the university’s Department of Food Science found tamarillos contain a good bit of potassium, as much as approximately 400 milligrams per 100 grams fresh weight. (5)
Since the Food and Drug Administration recommends we have 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day through fresh fruits and vegetables, the tamarillo proves to be beneficial in this regard. It is suggested that a diet that is filled with colorful fruits and vegetables may help cut systolic blood pressure by more than 10 points in those dealing with high blood pressure issues. (6)
3. Supports Eye Health
Since the tamarillo contains vitamin A, it may help give those eyes the ability to see more clearly. Vitamin A is important for good vision, a strong immune system and important cell growth and development. It is the beta-carotene form of vitamin A in particular that comes from plants, such as tamarillo. Beta-carotene, or vitamin A, is an antioxidant. Through the consumption of this useful antioxidant, the body can be given a boost to help acquire and maintain good health. (7)
4. May Help You Live Longer
A study out of Canada was conducted in a laboratory on worms. More specifically, the study focused on Werner syndrome, which is a rather uncommon disorder resulting in the premature onset of a many age-related diseases. The study found that longevity was increased in those subjects that were given vitamin C. (11)
In addition, vitamin C has been shown to increase life span of mice, and reviews of 14 studies on different organisms, including worms, flies and rodents, found that vitamin C seemed to have an effect on life span, though results did vary wildly. (12, 13)
5. Boosts Metabolism
Containing about 19 percent to 21 percent of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin B6, the tamarillo may offer help in metabolizing nutrients. Vitamin B6 is part of the B-complex group of vitamins, and while alone it is not going to provide you with tons of energy, as part of the B-complex group, it helps convert calories into useful energy through carbohydrates and proteins.
Vitamin B6 plays a role in the production of energy because it is required to help with the process of the metabolism of hemoglobin — transporting oxygen through the blood. Also, when caloric intake is low, vitamin B6 reaches out to stored carbohydrates for energy as well as protein. (14)
Research published in the Journal of Obesity examined the effects of tamarillo (Cyphomandra betacea) extract on obese rats that were fed a high-fat diet. What did they find? (15)
Overall, treatment of obese induced rats with C. betacea extract showed its potential in weight maintenance and positive lipid lowering effect and demonstrated an increment of antioxidant activity of SOD, GPx, and TAS and exhibited anti-inflammatory effects as showed in the decrements of inflammatory biomarkers. Therefore, consumption of C. betacea in daily dietary intake is a one-step action towards prevention of obesity and weight management principle.
Thanks to its effects on metabolism, tarmallio can help combat obesity.
Tamarillo Fruit Nutrition
- 30 calories
- 8.25 grams carbohydrates
- 1.03 grams protein
- 1.03 grams fat
- 1 gram fiber
- 1,637 international units vitamin A (over 100 percent DV)
- 29.5 milligrams vitamin C (50 percent DV)
- 2.09 milligrams vitamin E (14 percent DV)
- 0.8 milligram iron (8 percent DV)
- 321 milligrams potassium (7 percent DV)
- 10 milligrams calcium (1 percent DV)
Tamarillo also contains folate, niacin, thiamine, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc.
Tamarillo vs. Tomato
The tamarillo is best described as a long-stalked, dangling fruit. It can be found individually on the plant, which some call trees, or in clusters of three to 12. It is a smooth, egg-shaped fruit that is pointed at both ends, whereas the tomato is usually more round in shape. It can be two to four inches long and about 1.5 to two inches in width. The tomato, however, can be larger in diameter, depending on the variety.
The tamarillo actually got its name to help differentiate it from the tomato since it is somewhat similar. It comes in a few colors from a solid deep purple, blood red, orange and yellow, or red and yellow, as does the tomato. Some tamarillos are known to have faint, dark, longitudinal stripes as well.
Can you eat the skin of the tamarillo? Unlike the tomato, the skin is a bit tough and not very tasty, but the pulp surrounding the seed is usually soft, juicy, and sweet and/or tart, with the yellow varieties being a bit sweeter. The seeds are edible and thin, almost flat, and round. They are larger and harder than the seeds of a tomato.
Tamarillo Uses + Tamarillo Recipes
According to the New Zealand Tamarillo Growers Association, the best way to consume the tamarillo is to eat it raw. Cut in half, like a cross section, drizzle with a little honey, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon, sort of similar to how you might eat a kiwi. It also suggests avoiding the skin since it does not taste all that great.
If you want to cook with tamarillos, peel the skin first. You can do this with a paring knife or boil them for a minute to loosen the skin so you can easily remove it. You can also simply place them in a heat-safe bowl and put boiling water on top, completely covering them. Allow them to sit for three to four minutes, then cool them down with cold water. Make a small cut with a paring knife, and the skin should slip right off with ease.
Another option is to cut a raw tamarillo into slices (remove the peel first), then serve the slices with goat cheese or add to a salad. Tamarillo makes for a nice ingredient in salsa, or use it as an ingredient in a delicious chutney. Chopped tamarillo is good in a fruit smoothie with a little honey, banana and yogurt. Baked goods, such as muffins, and desserts are great options too.
Want to try some tamarillo recipes? Check this one out to start:
Curry, Ginger, Green Apple and Tamarillo Chutney
Makes: About 2 cups
- 2 cups chopped and peeled tamarillos
- ½ cup green apples, peeled and chopped very small (squeeze a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning)
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ cup medium sweet onion
- Pinch or two of curry
- 2 1/4 tablespoons grated ginger root
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorn
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup honey
*Tip: to peel the tamarillos first, place in a bowl, then cover with boiling water. Allow it to sit for about 3–4 minutes. Cool. Then peel.
- Place the chopped tamarillos into a saucepan.
- Add the onions, apples, garlic, curry and ginger.
- Then, add the cloves and peppercorns, and stir in the chili powder, salt and honey.
- Bring to the boil, stirring until the everything is well-blended.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour or so, or until thick like a jam.
- Once cool, pack into clean jars and seal.
- Enjoy on fish, chicken or as a topping on roasted turkey. You can add it to basmati rice as a side dish or even as a spread on fresh, toasted sourdough.
Here a few more tamarillo recipes to try:
- Baked Tamarillo with Honey and Red Wine
- Tamarillo Chutney
- Poached Tamarillos in Honey and Vanilla Syrup
- Macerated Tamarillos
Native to the Andes of Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Bolivia, the tamarillo is still cultivated in gardens and small orchards of these areas, making it is one of the most popular fruits. The tamarillo is an egg-shaped fruit that comes from a plant. The plant is actually a fast-growing tree that typically stands about five meters tall and yields fruits that are four to 10 centimeters long. It is tangy, sweet and sometimes tart in flavor and best when eaten without the skin.
The tamarillo has been called the tree tomato, but the name tamarillo was given to this plant by New Zealand to help prevent confusion between the tamarillo and the tomato. Geographically, it originated in the Andes and has never been found in the wild but rather has been treated more as a garden plant. It was introduced to New Zealand in the 1800s; however, in World War II it became more important since there was a fruit shortage. It was then that tamarillo became a commercial crop.
The tamarillo is a relative of the potato, tomato, eggplant and capsicum pepper. It has been listed among the “lost foods of the Incas and known as the ‘tomate de arbol’ having disappeared from their native habitat.” Originally, the fruit was found as yellow and purple-fruited strains, but the red tamarillo was developed in the 1920s by an Auckland man working in a nursery. (18)
It wasn’t until 1967 that the name changed from tree tomato to tamarillo to help eliminate confusion with the common garden tomato. A member of the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotions Council combined a Maori word and a Spanish word to make up the new name. “Tama” implies leadership in Maori, but the inspiration for “rillo” is not clear, though some think “amarillo,” which is the Spanish word for yellow, gave way to the name.
Today, the demand for the tamarillo remains strong, and the clean, green New Zealand climate provides amazing growing conditions. The fruit is grown on a commercial scale in Colombia, Ecuador, some parts of Australia, California, Africa and Asia. (19)
There aren’t many reported cases of a tamarillo allergy, but a study was conducted to try to determine whether issues exist. One participant came down with a case of hives about 12–24 hours after consuming tamarillos, but that is about all that was found.(20) Like all foods, if you suspect that you are having a negative reaction, seek professional medical help immediately.
Tamarillo can be a delicious addition to many dishes while offering numerous benefits from reducing the risk of heart disease, offering benefits to your vision, helping your metabolism function properly and the benefits of vitamin C on longevity. Try incorporating tamarillo as a new flavor to your favorite meals.