Thursday, April 6, 2006
Tamarillo (The fruit that tastes like tomato)
The sun struggled to come out this morning after what seemed to be endless wintry blasts that brought about heavy snow in the South Island and in some parts of the North Island as well. Green pasture farms turned to vast snow fields. Farmers in the highlands had to use helicopters to gather and feed their stock. Over here at the Wairarapa area, incessant rains caused heavy flooding, damaging roads and cutting bridges, isolating some communities. There was loss of fragile lambs too, for some farmers.
It was a welcome relief to finally see the sun after days and days of dark clouds and pouring rain. I had the chance to go out to see how the garden was doing. The hothouse was under water--the ampalaya vine which I had been keeping inside with the hope of it surviving the winter was showing signs of surrender, the pepino plant's leaves were eaten by frost, exposing its fruits, most of which were yet to get ripe. On the positive side, the garlic bulbs and the shallots we planted on the first week of June have started to spring up. They seemed to love the cold and the wet weather. Even the broad beans looked happy despite wet feet.
Under the tamarillo trees were several of their fruits that fell onto the ground. They were either forced by the wind, or maybe, they were about ready. Like the feijoa, the tamarillos are not picked off the tree, they do a natural fruit drop when they are about ripe.
With its oval shape and an outer skin that is either red or purple toned, the ripe tamarillo really looks nice and appealing. Cut cross-wise, the fruit reveals an orange-y flesh and an interesting dark pattern formed by its edible seeds. But the thought of a fruit tasting like a tomato and using it as a dessert, did not really appeal to me. Well, at least, the first time I tried it. But David really, really loves it as a topping for his hokey-pokey or vanilla ice cream!
Like the feijoa that I also did not like initially, I tried the tamarillo as a fruit shake. Cutting the fruit into half, I scooped the flesh out and prepared the rest of the ingredients. I was surprised to find a very appealing purplish colored smoothie that was a hit for both David and me.
2 pcs ripe tamarillo
1 cup soy milk
2 cups cubed ice
1 tbs honey or brown sugar
( Variation: You can use a ripe banana if you do not want to use honey or sugar)
Put together all ingredients in a blender and process to a smoothie.
The tamarillo (Cyphomandra) is a member of the Solanaceae family, with the potato, tomato, eggplant and capsicum peppers as relatives.
These egg-shaped fruits were formerly called tree tomato, and were originally from South America, until New Zealand's Mr W Thompson of the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotion Council coined the term "tamarillo", from a combination of the Maori word "tama" and the Spanish word "amarillo" for the color yellow. The term stuck and has been in use since then.
There are two varieties: one is the yellow/orange toned and the red/purple toned. Red tamarillos are more acidic (tart and tangy ) than yellow or gold tamarillos. The difference can be likened to non acidic tomatoes and normal tomatoes. And speaking of likeness with tomatoes, tamarillos can also be skinned easily like the tomatoes by blanching the fruits in hot water for a couple minutes or so, then rinsing them with cold water. The skin should come off easily after this.
Both types contain edible seeds, and the flavor of the flesh within the two types vary considerably. Because the red or purple toned tamarillos have a more tart taste than their yellow or orange toned counterparts, they are more frequently used as a vegetable than as a fruit.
I have yet to discover the other uses of this fruit/vegetable, although one book I have read said that the red or purple toned tamarillo can be used as you would a tomato--peeled and sliced and served as a cold side dish, added to sandwiches and salads, baked, frozen or eaten raw. The yelllow or orange one can be sliced and added to fruit salads and other deserts.
For the meantime, we would have to enjoy the tamarillo as a fruit shake. And yes, as fruit topping for David's vanilla ice cream.