Tamarillos are exotic looking trees with large heart-shaped leaves. They need an area with mild winters and hot summers to ripen the dangling dark red and purple fruits. Tamarillos are delicious raw, their pulp has a zingy citrus tang to it that can make you shudder. This can easily be alleviated with a sprinkling of sugar. Tamarillos can be preserved as jams, chutneys or pickles and they make a mean crumble filling. Tamarillos are high in vitamin C they also contain potassium and iron. In colder parts of the country you can grow tamarillos in a green house or conservatory.
Companions Comfrey, marigold, borage, calendula,
Quantity 1-2 plants per household.
Oratia Red produces large red fruit that have a sharp tangy flavour. Good for preserving.
Goldmine produces large golden-yellow fruits with a sweet flavour.
Tango produces large egg-shaped, reddish-orange fruit with a sweet flavour. Good for eating raw.
Ted's Red produces large rounded red fruit with good flavour.
Plant container grown plants in autumn or spring.
Plant tamarillos in full sun – though they will tolerate some partial afternoon shade. They need protection from strong winds that can shred the soft large leaves. Avoid planting in areas with prolonged cold winter temperatures. A light frost has the benefit of pruning tamarillos by killing off any long, spindly stems.
Tamarillos are great in containers such as half barrels. This means you can put them in your sunniest spot – say on a deck or terrace - if your veg garden doesn’t happen to be big on suntraps.
Tamarillos grow in fertile well-drained with lots of organic material dug through it. If your soil is sandy or slightly sticky and you want to improve it, you can add well-rotted compost at the time of planting and continue to mulch with rich compost as your plants get established. You can always grow tamarillos in a raised bed filled with well-rotted organic compost if you have a really sticky clay soil.
Plant tamarillos at least two strides apart. Soak plants in water before planting them.
Prepare the planting area. Soil should be weed-free and well dug through to at least a full spade’s depth. Add well-rotted compost if necessary and mix with surrounding garden soil. Carefully remove tamarillo plants from containers by turning them upside down and holding the plant across the base of its stem with a spread hand. Tap the bottom of the container until the plant and its root ball come loose. Handle plants by the root ball to prevent damage to stems and shallow roots. Place tamarillo plant in a hole that is just larger than the container it came in. Back fill around root ball making sure there are no air pockets. Water well and mulch with a finger-thick layer of peat, pine needles, shredded bark or untreated sawdust.
If planting in a container ensure it is large enough. Half barrels look good with tamarillos and they are the right size too. Use a rich compost with plenty of organic material. Add slow release granules or sheep pellets before planting. When tamarillos are grown in containers it pays to put them where you’ll easily monitor them to ensure soil is moist – particularly in dry weather.
Keep plants weed free and maintain constant moisture levels – this is especially important in the weeks during which the fruit swell and ripen.
Feed: As long as you maintain a nutrient rich layer of mulch around their base this should give them all they need but to give plants a boost you can feed them with a sprinkling of blood and bone meal around outer edge of foliage in spring and summer. Container grown plants may need more regular feeding with a constant layer of mulch maintained at all times and a sprinkling of blood and bone meal every spring and summer.
Flowering: Flowers are produced in high numbers in summer and autumn they are pollinated by bees and wind.
Fruit ripen in autumn and winter. They are ripe when they develop a rich colour. Keep picking to stimulate continued production. Pick fruit individually – cutting stems with secateurs.
Storage: Once picked, tamarillos will become sweeter after a week or so – if they are allowed to sit around for that long. Cutting them across the middle and scooping out the sweet pulp with a spoon is the generally preferred option but where tools are absent you can score the skin with your thumbnail and prize fruit apart in the middle. The delicious pulp can then be squeezed into a hungry mouth. Tamarillos are used to make jams, juices, chutneys, sauces fruit salads and preserves.
Pinch out the growing tip of young plants when they are just below waist height. This stimulates production of side shoots and prevents plants from growing too tall so harvesting is easier.
Keep branches to a strong, open framework. Cut back long stems to half their length after harvest. A light frost will trim back stems for you.
Tamarillos are relatively trouble free if given the right growing conditions. Spray with Neem oil in spring to interrupt scale insect and aphid breeding.