What Is Tamarillo Good For?

Top-Notch Tamarillo
Scientific name: Cyphomandra betacea

Tamarillo

In 1967, a competition was held in New Zealand to name a unique and juicy fruit. W. Thompson, a member of the then New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotions Council, combined a Maori word (“tama,” which implies leadership) and a Spanish word (said to be “amarillo,” which is “yellow” in Spanish), to form the name “tamarillo.”

The tamarillo is a popular fruit in New Zealand that’s said to originate from the semitropical, high-altitude forests found in Brazil and in Peru, and possibly from other South American countries like Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia too.1,2,3,4

Learn more about tamarillo and what makes it special: what it tastes like, its potential health benefits and uses, and how you can incorporate this vibrant fruit into your meals.

What Is Tamarillo?

The tamarillo fruit is oval-shaped and has smooth and shiny skin. It’s also called tree tomato, tomate de arbol (Spanish) and tomate de arvore (Portuguese). This fruit comes in different colors, depending upon the type of cultivar, with red tamarillos being more common compared to orange-yellow varieties.

The inside of the fruit resembles that of plum tomatoes. Tamarillo tastes sweet yet tangy, and the fruit’s flesh is juicy, deep in color and filled with small, flat and circular edible seeds that are slightly larger than tomato seeds.

Tamarillo grows from a shrub or a small-sized tree with hairy stems and branches that reaches 5 to 15 feet tall. The tamarillo tree has broader evergreen leaves compared to that of a tomato plant. Well-grown tamarillo plants produce small and fleshy pale-pink flowers during the first year of plantation, and fruiting is discouraged until the plant reaches its second or third year. A fully grown tamarillo fruit measures between 2 to 3 inches (6 to 8 centimeters) long and is 1 ½ to 2 inches (4 to 6 centimeters) wide, weighing about 100 grams.

Tamarillo is said to be closely related to other members of the Solanaceae or nightshade family,5 such as tomatoes, eggplants, tomatillos, groundcherry and chili peppers. Tamarillos are typically cultivated on a commercial scale in large orchards in the northern parts of New Zealand. Fruits are then exported to the U.S., Australia, Japan and European countries.6

Health Benefits of Tamarillo

Tamarillo is a storehouse of various minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients (like dietary fiber) that can deliver outstanding health benefits. These include:

Vitamin A: This is renowned for its abilities in maintaining good eye health, preserving the integrity of mucosa and skin, and upholding healthy bones and other tissues. It also works as an antioxidant that helps resist cell damage.

Vitamin C: It helps prevent immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular diseases and eye diseases. Vitamin C can also assist in preventing prenatal health problems and promoting good skin health.

Vitamin E: This vitamin delivers antioxidant properties by removing unstable compounds, preventing cell damage and reducing cholesterol levels.

B vitamins such as thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2) and pyridoxine (vitamin B6): These can serve as cofactors for enzymes in metabolism and in different synthetic functions inside the body.


Proper amount of food and B vitamins can help you remain energized and prevent fatigue in an efficient manner.

Beta-carotene: Tamarillos contain the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is eventually converted into vitamin A in the body. Yellow and gold tamarillos are said to have more vitamin A and carotenes.

Chlorogenic acid: Some studies have shown that chlorogenic acid in tamarillos may help Type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. It has the potential to regulate blood sugar levels, eventually reducing the amount of sugar in the body and keeping the disease under control.

Potassium: This is a vital component of cell and body fluids, and assists with controlling heart rate and blood pressure.


Together with magnesium and fiber, potassium may help curb absorption of bad cholesterol in the body, counteract negative influences of excessive sodium consumption and help regulate the cardiovascular system.


Other health-boosting minerals found in tamarillos include copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and iron.

Anthocyanins: These antioxidants are known to neutralize free radicals. Red tamarillos are known to contain more anthocyanin pigments compared to yellow and gold tamarillos.

On a larger scale, tamarillos can also help assist with:7,8

Delivering antioxidant capabilities: The ORAC value or antioxidant strength of roughly 100 grams of fresh tamarillos is 1659 Trolox equivalents (TE).


This antioxidant value is derived from the polyphenol, flavonol and anthocyanidin compounds, phytochemicals such as chlorogenic acid, kaempferol and anthocyanin pigments such as cyanidin glycosides, especially those concentrated in the skin.

Improving skin health: Vitamins A, C and E all work together to make sure the skin remains healthy, gleaming and supple.


Plus, tamarillo’s antioxidant properties, as well as phenols and flavonoids, may aid in protecting the skin from pollution and other oxidative stress that can damage the skin.

Helping with weight management: People who wish to lose weight can benefit from consuming moderate amounts of tamarillos, as its acidic properties may help reduce extra fat.

Assisting with prevention of eye diseases: Tamarillos may help restore moisture levels in the menbranes, and combat bacteria, cataracts and macular degeneration.

Controlling mood fluctuations: Certain vitamins and minerals in tamarillos may play a major role in controlling mood fluctuations and aid in keeping mood disorders at bay.

Helping people with high blood pressure levels: Eating moderate amounts of tamarillo on a regular basis may help people suffering from this condition because it moderates excess blood flow and burns cholesterol and fat.


Its potassium content also makes this fruit a potential remedy for blood pressure ailments.

Uses of Tamarillo

Ripe tamarillo fruits can be eaten with the peel. However, the peel is bitter because of its cyanidin anthocyanin pigment content, so you may want to avoid eating it. Tamarillo can be sliced and added to fruit and green salads, and used as toppings on cakes, ice cream and sandwiches. Meanwhile, tamarillo pulp can be blended and pureed to prepare relish, smoothies, sauces, salsa, jams, jellies and chutney. 9

Medicinally, this fruit was utilized to help relieve inflamed tonsils, particularly in Ecuador. Tamarillo leaves warmed in water were tied to the necks of people with inflamed tonsils, because heat absorbed from the tamarillo leaves helped reduce the pain from the inflamed tonsils.10

Tamarillo Recipes to Try at Home
Tamarillo, Bacon and Feta Salad Recipe

If you’re interested in incorporating tamarillo into your favorite dishes, a quick search can lead you to various recipes. An example is this tamarillo salad recipe:11

Tamarillo Bacon and Feta Salad Recipe

Ingredients:

6 bacon rashers, rind removed

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

100 grams snow pea sprouts

3 tamarillos

1/2 teaspoon raw honey, Stevia or Luo Han

100 grams feta cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cups mesclun leaves

 

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup almonds, lightly toasted

 

Procedure:

  1. Grill or pan fry bacon rashers until crisp. Cool and then chop into pieces.
  2. Place tamarillos in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for three minutes, then drain, peel and quarter.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard and preferred sweetener.
  4. Arrange leaves on a platter and sprinkle over almonds, snow pea sprouts and chopped bacon rashers.
  5. Top the salad with tamarillo pieces and feta, drizzle with dressing and serve.

Ripe tamarillos are soft and red-brown, while unripe ones are orange-yellow.12 When buying tamarillos, look for well-developed, bright, uniform-colored and ripe fruits. Check if the fruit is attached to a healthy stalk, and avoid fruits that are small, shriveled, damaged and bruised. At home, ripe tamarillos can stay fresh for roughly five to seven days, and can be stored inside the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Before eating or using tamarillos, wash the fruits in cold water, dry using a soft cloth and remove the stalk. A tamarillo is typically eaten by cutting it halfway and using a teaspoon to scoop out the sweet and juicy flesh. The skin can be peeled and disposed like those of tomatoes. You can also boil the tamarillos first in hot water for two to three minutes, and cool them by immediately immersing the fruits in cold water. Using a knife, make a small nick on the tamarillo’s surface and gently peel the fruit using your fingers.13


Tamarillo Nutrition Facts

A medium-sized tamarillo contains about 228 calories. It’s a nutrient-rich fruit too, as it contains 80 percent iron, 28 percent vitamin A and 23 percent calcium, without the addition of harmful trans fats. Just be careful of tamarillo’s sugar content. At 17 grams, this amount is quite high, so you should eat this fruit in moderation as much as possible:

 
 

Tamarillo Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 medium tamarillo
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 228  
Calories from Fat 2 g  
Total Fat 0.1 g  
Saturated Fat 0.0 g  
Trans Fat 0 g  
Cholesterol 4 mg  
Sodium 4.0 mg  
Total Carbohydrates 43 g  
Dietary Fiber 3 g  
Sugar 17 g  
Protein 9 g  
Vitamin A   28%
Calcium   23%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Tamarillo

Q: What can you do with tamarillos?

A: You can slice tamarillos and add these to fruit and/or green salads, or use these as toppings for cakes, ice cream and sandwiches. The tamarillo pulp can also be blended and pureed to create smoothies, sauces, salsa, jams, jellies, chutney and relish.

Q: How do you eat a tamarillo?

A: Before eating tamarillos, wash them first in cold water, dry using a soft cloth and remove the stalk. A tamarillo is typically eaten by cutting the fruit halfway and using a teaspoon to scoop out the sweet, juicy flesh. You can also try boiling tamarillos first in hot water for two to three minutes, and "shock" the fruits by immersing them in cold water afterwards. Once the fruits have cooled, take a knife, make a small nick on the fruit's surface and gently peel the fruit using your fingers to eat them.

Q: Can you eat tamarillo skin?

A: While tamarillo skin is edible, you might want to reconsider because it has a very bitter flavor, thanks to its cyanidin anthocyanin pigment content.