7 Facts about Tamarillo that you MUST Know

If you wish to know everything about tamarillo, keep reading this blog because here you’ll find the answers to your queries.

You’ll learn facts such as: what is the tree tomato, what are its characteristics (both fruit and plant), what types of tamarillo are there, what are the benefits of including this fruit in your diet, where it originated, how is tamarillo tree industry in the world and how it is consumed.

What is the tamarillo and what are its characteristics? 

Scientific nameSolanum betaceum
Common nameTamarillo, tree tomato, tomate de árbol, tomate andino, tomate serrano, blood fruit, tomate de yuca, tomate de  españa, sachatomate.
Place of OriginNative to the Andes in South America
HabitatTemplate and cold regions
DistributionCountries in Africa, Asia, America, Europe, and some countries in Oceania, like Australia.

What is the tamarillo like? 

The tree tomato belongs to the Solanaceae family, characterized by having herbaceous plants, shrubs, or small trees.

Below, you’ll learn a little more about all the botanical features of this fruit.

The stem of the tamarillo 

To begin with, this fruit comes from a shrubby plant that can grow up to 10 feet tall. Its stem grows vertically and is semi-woody, that is, its bark is not entirely made of wood.

It’s a small plant that branches naturally after 8 to 9 months of age, at a height of 1.5 to 2 meters.

In addition, its life span is short, usually 5 to 12 years. In its first years, the outer bark of the stem is green and becomes brown as the plant ages.

Tree tomato leaves and flowers 

The leaves of the tamarillo are heart-shaped, dark green on one side and light green on the other. They grow at the end of the branches and are supported by a petiole (leaf stalk) that can be 4 to 8 cm long. The leaves can measure between 15 to 30 cm long and 8 to 20 cm wide, are oval and their texture is a little rough.

The flowers may appear at the top of the stem or on the branches of the plant. They are grouped in clusters of 10 to 50 flowers hanging from the branches or stem, they are small and have 5 petals that vary in color. They can have mixed tones of white, pink, or purple.

What does the tree tamarillo look like? 

The fruits grow in clusters suspended from the branches of the plant and are berry-like, and oval with a sharp or pointed underside.

The peel of the tamarillo is smooth, thin, and green in color when unripe. It is very resistant to transport, although it is quite difficult to peel. In addition, the external color can vary according to the type of tree tomato, the most common tones are yellow, red, purple, or orange.

The center of the fruit contains a juicy pulp with a sweet and sour, slightly acidic flavor. It has small, flat, smooth seeds of 2 to 4 mm that can be white or black in color; each fruit can bear between 300 and 500 seeds.

Types of tamarillo

Tree tomatoes vary in skin and flesh color, shape, and size. Based on these characteristics, the following types of this fruit can be distinguished.

Common red tamarillo

This type of fruit is the best-known and most commercialized in the world.

  • The rind is red and orange when ripe, sometimes with green or brown vertical stripes that are not very intense.
  • The pulp is orange and contains about 240 seeds.
  • It can measure 5 to 8 cm long and weigh about 80 grams.

Common yellow tamarillo

This tamarillo is characterized by:

  • The intense yellow skin with brown or green stripes that are very catching to the eye.
  • Its flesh is also yellow and can contain about 170 seeds.
  • It can measure 5 to 7 cm long and weigh approximately 70 grams.

Round-yellow tamarillo

Compared to the two types of tree tomato above, this fruit is characterized by:

  • Having a rounded shape and a larger size.
  • The rind is deep yellow but with no stripes of any kind.
  • The pulp is also yellow and may have about 195 seeds.
  • They are about 6 cm in diameter x 7 cm long and can weigh about 99 grams on average.

Purple tamarillo 

Known as “tomato sangre de toro” (Bull’s blood tomato) or “tomate de árbol mora” (blackberry tree tomato) due mainly to its deep purple skin with faint green stripes. Other characteristics are:

  • Its orange flesh can have about 300 seeds per fruit.
  • It can measure 5.2 cm in diameter x 6 cm long and weigh approx. 90 grams.
  • It is one of the most popular for its sweet taste.

Seedless tamarillo

Fruits of this kind are small, they can be 3 cm wide x 4 cm long. The rind is red and orange with vertical green or brown stripes. The pulp is orange and its main characteristic is that it has no seeds, so it is also called “parthenocarpic”.

What are the benefits of tamarillos? 

Tamarillo nutritional table 

In this section, you’ll find a nutritional chart about the tamarillo tree taken from the United States Department of Agriculture (2021). According to this nutritional table, we can conclude that the tamarillo is a low-calorie fruit.

Nutritional information of the Tamarillo 
Serving: 100 grams of Tamarillo 
Energy30 Calories
Protein1,03 grams
Total lipids (fats)1,03 grams
Carbohydrates8,25 grams
Fiber1 gram
Sugars7,22 grams
Calcium10 milligrams
Iron0,56 grams
Sodium3 milligrams
Vitamin C20,4 milligrams
Total saturated fatty acids0 grams
Total trans fatty acids0 grams
Cholesterol0 milligrams

Tamarillo properties 

Now, what does it provide to our body?

Tamarillo is nutritious 

The tree tomato is a fruit rich in vitamins like vitamin A, which contributes to the proper functioning of eyesight. It also contains vitamin C that has functions in the body such as wound healing, allowing the correct absorption of iron, repairing cartilage, bones and teeth, and acting as an antioxidant, among many others.

In addition, it is rich in other vitamins such as K, and B and minerals like calcium and phosphorus, helping the formation of teeth and bones.

Tamarillos are rich in fiber 

This fruit is a good source of fiber, a substance that has important functions in our body; for example, is an ally to regulate intestinal transit, thus improving digestive health and helping people with constipation or other ailments. Also, foods rich in fiber allow us to have a feeling of satiety.

Tamarillos are a source of antioxidants

It’s also a good source of antioxidants. If you were not aware, antioxidants have gained fame thanks to all their benefits. Let me tell you, these substances are present in foods we consume and their main function is to protect cells from the damage that free radicals can cause.

According to the scientific journal Plants (2022), antioxidants have enormous benefits in preventing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, bone diseases or even some types of cancer.

Tamarillos contain amino acids 

According to the scientific journal World Journal of Advanced Research and Reviews (2020), the tamarillo is a source of amino acids that may even surpass many other fruits in quantity, yet it doesn’t surpass bananas and avocados. Amino acids are ideal for the functioning of the body because when combined with proteins that allow the body to digest food, they repair tissues, and assist in growth, among other functions.

Medicinal uses of the tamarillo

Some indigenous communities use this fruit as a traditional medicine to cure different conditions, for example:

  • They drink the juice of the tamarillo on an empty stomach to soothe throat infections and flu.
  • They use the fruit, leaves, and stems to be consumed for reducing cholesterol in the blood or diabetes.
  • They also use it for back pain by splitting a fruit in half and rubbing it over the area.

How is tamarillo eaten? 

As an exotic fruit, it is not widely used for industrial products. Usually, the tree tomato is eaten as fresh fruit or made into juice, although people often make homemade products with it:

  • Jams
  • Ice cream
  • Sweets
  • Jellies
  • Compotes

And it is included in traditional alcoholic beverages, such as chicha (an artisanal beverage made in different countries of America such as Colombia, and Peru, among others).  

Where did the tree tomato originate? 

The origin of the tamarillo can be traced back to the Andes, i.e. to countries such as Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, and Ecuador, among others. Tree tomato crops were planted by the ancient inhabitants of these areas and go back to before colonization.

Unfortunately, after the arrival of the colonizers, these crops were displaced and replaced by other foods brought from the new world.

Later, the tree tomato was introduced in different parts of the world. For example, in 1891 it was introduced to New Zealand and eventually became an important fruit because it began to be produced for commercial purposes around 1920. It was also introduced in Africa, Europe, and Asia.

In the 1930s, batches of tree tomatoes were grown to be marketed in small quantities, although it was during the World War II period when the tamarillo became truly known in different parts of the world.

Fun fact:

It is known as “tamarillo or tree tomato” in some parts of the world. It was in 1967 when they decided to change the name of the fruit to avoid confusion with the common tomato or vegetable.

Tamarillo industry worldwide 

The tree tomato is an exotic fruit grown in smaller quantities compared to other fruits or foods, so the information regarding production, import or export, is limited and insufficient.

In this section, you’ll find out some information on countries where tree tomatoes are grown. It should be noted that these countries are not listed in order of relevance.

Tamarillo production in New Zealand 

New Zealand is one of the Oceanian countries where the tree tomato is grown. There it is commonly known as “Tree Tomato” or “Tamarillo”, but the latter is the most common. According to the New Zealand Horticulture Export Authority, this fruit is grown in greater quantities in the regions of:  

  • Northland
  • Auckland
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Hawke’s Bay

They have an area of 100 hectares dedicated to the cultivation of tamarillo and claim that the year 2020 was productive because they sold around 600 tons nationally for a value of 2.9 million dollars.

The main market to which they export is the United States of America, in 2020 they exported 14 tons of tamarillo trees for a value of 0.1 million dollars. Other countries where they export in smaller quantities are the Fiji Islands, Hong Kong, and the Pacific Islands.

Tamarillo production in Colombia 

Colombia is among the main tamarillo producers in the American continent, one of the reasons being the climate which helps to produce the fruit all year round. Each year they produce approximately 150 thousand tons.

Antioquia department is the region where the fruit is grown the most, in fact, on La Meseta farm there are about 900 hectares dedicated to tree tomato crops.

Among the countries to which they export the most are the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Spain, France, Canada, Switzerland, Qatar, and Russia.

Tamarillo production in Africa 

Tree tomato is also produced in some African countries, for example, Kenya. The regions where it is grown in the largest quantities are:

  • Migori
  • Kissi
  • Kakamega
  • Meru
  • Kericho
  • Nyeri

How is tamarillo cultivated? 

Here are some of the conditions needed for tree tomato crops to grow well and produce nice fruit.

Climate for tamarillo 

The tree tomato grows well in areas with cold or temperate climates around 13 to 25 °C. It can withstand frost or temperatures reaching 0 °C, but if temperatures drop too low, for example, reaching -4 °C, the leaves will be destroyed completely.

In addition, strong winds should be avoided to prevent the branches from breaking.

Soil for tamarillo

This fruit develops optimally in deep soils, with a good amount of organic matter, and that is well drained to allow oxygenation of the plant. The soils that should have a high amount of nutrients and usually the ones used are loam or sandy loam types.

Height and Rainfall for tamarillos 

It can grow at heights ranging from 1,200 to 3,000 meters above sea level, although the preferred altitude is between 1,800 to 2,600 meters above sea level.

For pollination reasons, the area must have a humidity of 70 to 80%, so rainfall should be 1,500 to 2,000 mm distributed throughout the year as the plant cannot tolerate water shortages and this could affect production.

Tamarillo propagation and harvesting 

There are different methods for the propagation of this fruit; seeds, grafts or cuttings, for example. But, the most widely used is the reproduction by seeds because it allows the plant to have strong roots, grow vigorously and be resistant to various environmental situations.

Seeds are normally extracted from the healthiest fruits that come from trees vital and free from pests and diseases.

The plant achieves the production stage at 3 years of age and has a short life span of only 7 to 8 years. When the fruits are ready to be harvested, growers extract them manually as this is the easiest and most common method.

Preservation of tamarillo 

Many fruits are lost at this stage, and one of the main reasons is the rotting of the fruit. To prevent this, they must be stored in cold rooms or cold chambers at temperatures of 3 to 4.5 °C, no more or less than that because it can affect the fruits in different ways.


Although the tamarillo is not a popular fruit in some parts of the world, it has many benefits that you really should include in your diet. We hope you have learned more about the tamarillo and all of its unique and exotic characteristics through this blog.