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Tree Tomato (Tamarillo)


Tree Tomato plants do very well in a container as it is easier to provide protection from frost.

Tree Tomato (Tamarillo) trees love a dry hot climate, it will do well in half-day shade. It requires fertile, well-drained soil.

It is a heavy feeder and will not tolerate water-logging. However, it does need a lot of water due to its shallow root system and the large, soft leaves which use up moisture quickly. Also the fruit needs adequate and regular watering to develop well.

Tree Tomato Trees should preferably be planted in partial shade not direct sunlight. Under a tree where it received dappled sun is great.

Apply a specialised fruit tree fertiliser each summer. For the first two months after planting your Tamarillo, fertilise once a month.

It is an evergreen semi-tree (up to 5 meters tall), although it can be deciduous in cool climates. It is fast growing and will reach peak production after 4 years with a life expectancy of 8-12 years. It grows as a single upright trunk with lateral branches and has very large heart-shaped leaves.

Fruits are borne on laterals, so once the desired height is achieved, snip off the growing top(s) to encourage lateral formation. Laterals will carry clusters of white flowers followed by 3-12 egg-shaped fruits per cluster. Laterals that have fruited must be removed and replaced with new branches as they will produce less fruits in the following year.

Your Tree Tomato, Tamarillo, should start to produce fruits after about 18 months.

Fruits can be produced all year round in climates with little seasonal variation, but in South Africa fruits start to set in summer and only ripen in autumn-mid winter.

It may seem a bit strange to grow them if they take so long to ripen, but it is truly wonderful to have some ‘fruits’ in the middle of winter!

Pests like Aphids, leafhoppers and whitefly are a big problem and can amass huge numbers on the new deep red growth. Building up plant resistance through regular fertilising is key and when pests are noticed, (usually when leaves curl at their tips) the culprits will be hiding underneath.

Spray the tree regularly with a Neem Oil solution and remove pests as soon as possible.

Pruning is key to good fruit yield and to limit uneven ripening.

They are harvested by pulling in a snapping motion, or preferably use scissors, leaving 2-3 cm of the stem still attached for longer storage.

The fruits can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 weeks, but discolouration can occur should they be subjected to temperatures below 3 degrees.

They are versatile and can be eaten raw, made into jam, chutneys and added to stews. Tamarillo have a lot of pectin, making their preservation easier.

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