Cyphomandra betacea



Tamarillos, also known as the tree tomato, are subtropical fruits. Native to South America, the fruit is grown from a tamarillo tree. The flower has pink flowers with large heart-shaped leaves. The fruit is mildly sweet and can be compared to other fruits like kiwi. The outer skin of a tamarillo is bitter and is usually not eaten unless cooked.

Tamarillo flower

BACKGROUND: Naranjilla

Naranjillas are native to South America. Gathering naranjillas from the wild, the Incans incorporated naranjillas into their diet. The Incans grew to call the fruit llullu, which in spanish is lulo. The fruit has a citrus flavor and can be compared to that of a lime. The fruit bears orange berries which is why the plant is called naranjilla, "little orange" in Spanish. Another characteristic of a naranjilla is the fuzzy outer-layer of the fruit, which explains why the plant is also called the apricot tomato. In addition, in order to prevent the fruit from being too sour, a naranjilla is harvested when it is fully ripe.

Solanum quitoense


Relatives in the same plant family:

Tamarillos and Naranjillas are members of the Solanaceae family. The family is more commonly known as the nightshade family. Members of the Solanaceae family are often herbs or shrubs, whose flowers are usually bright in color. The family consists of 2,300 species that are found primarily in Central and South America. Tomatos, peppers and eggplants are some of the plants categorized under this family. Other than food purposes, some of the plants are used for medical purposes while the rest are poisonous.


Geographic distribution of the plants:

The distribution of Tamarillo consumption has increased significantally. The plant is native to the Andes. The plant was first recognized in New Zealand and has been doing especially well for more than fifty years. In fact, the plant is considered a commercial crop for New Zealand. Tamarillo was especially popular in New Zealand du​ring WWII because bananas and oranges were not being imported.

In North America, Japan and Europe one can find Tamarillo which is exported from New Zealand. Tamarillo is distributed to many parts of the subtropics, but it is also grown on a small scale in gardens. In these regions, tamarillo has not been well-developed commercially, as it has in New Zealand.

Distribution in New Zealand

Naranjilla is common in Columbia, Peru and Ecuador. In addition, the plant is becoming increasingly popular in Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala. Naranjilla requires an environment with a specific climate. For this reason, the plant does not grow well in many areas. In order for the plant to become successful commercially it will require a lot of dedication and hard work. For instance, there were attempts to grow Naranjilla in Southern Florida but the seeds failed to reach the flowering and fruiting stage. Naranjilla's future in industrialized regions looks promising because the fruit creates a sweet tasting juice. Places like North America, Europe and Japan could easily adopt the sweet tasting drink. For example, a study at Cornell was done to test the popularity of the naranjilla juice. A group of blindfolded panelists chose naranjilla juice over apple juice three to one.

Human use and domestication:

Tamarillos are attractive heart-shaped leaves that are easy to grow. The plant makes either yellow or red-shaped fruits which provide a variety of vitamins. One of the most common ways to use tamarillos is for a hot sauce, shown in the image below, which can go with almost anything. Before eaten the fruit is often cut in half and then the inside is scooped out. In addition, the entire fruit can be liquidized and drunk. Tamarillo's are often cooked however they can be eaten raw. For example, they are often added in stews and soups. The healthy fruit is often added to fruit salads as well as jam.


Naranjillas can be used for many different things. The fruit is primarily used for its delicious juice. The juice is considered the best of the region and is used to add flavor to drinks. Interestingly the juice of a Naranjilla is green and is actually preferred over orange juice. It is reported the juice flavor is a combination of tomato juice and orange juice with a splash of strawberry. In the UK a drink called Grace Tropical Rhythms, is a popular juice among many consumers. One of the newest flavors has recently added naranjillas as an option. The fresh juice is also fermented to make wine. The fruit has great export potential. In addition to juice, naranjilla can also be eaten raw or cooked. Naranjilla is often used in pies and jams.


Additional Information: Nutrition
Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*

85.8-92.5 g
0.107-0.6 g
5.7 g
0.3-4.6 g
5.9-12.4 mg
12.0-43.7 mg
0.34-0.64 mg
0.071-0.232 mg (600 I.U.)
0.04-0.094 mg
0.03-0.047 mg
1.19-1.76 mg
Ascorbic Acid
31.2-83.7 mg
Tamarillo Nutrition

Tamarillos have many nutritional benefits. For example the fruit is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin E. Tamarillo also has a significant amount of minerals. For example, iron, potassium and magnesium are found in tamarillo's. Along with this the fruit contains antioxidants which are essential for a healthy lifestyle. Antioxidants are well known for their ability to reduce free radicals in the body; free radicals are harmful for the human body, but are biproducts of essential chemical reactions in the human body. Thus, even a healthy person needs an abundance of antioxidants in their diet. In addition, Tamarillo's are low in carbohydrates. An average Tamarillo contains less than forty calories. This is a great attribute of the tamarillo fruit, especially in the high calorie diet that is typical for most Americans.

Naranjillla Nutrition

Naranjilla has many health benefits. For example, the fruit provides a plentiful amount of vitamins and minerals. In addition, Naranjilla has some protein. This fact is especially exciting for a vegetarian who is constantly looking for alternatives for protein in sources other than meat. Naranjilla also contains pepsin. Pepsin helps aid the stomach in digestion. In the 1970's a U.S. soup manufacturer attempted to sell a fruit drink with naranjilla in it; however, the project failed. Knowing the health benefits of naranjilla, this soup manufacturer tried to incorporate a new juice for health conscious Americans, but they were unsuccessful. Due to a limited supply of naranjilla it is hard for any U.S. company to incorporate naranjilla as an ingredient.

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"Tree Tomato." Flickr. 28 November 2009. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/41901122@N00/377402983/>.
"Naranjilla." Digital Flower Pictures . Com. 28 November 2009. http://digitalflowerpictures.blogspot.com/2008_02_01_archive.html.
"Plants Profile." United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service. 6 December 2009. <http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SOQU>.