Tamarillo, a fruit resembling a tomato, is native to Andes mountain in South America. Possibly due to its resemblance with tomato, it is called tree tomato; unlike tomato plant tamarillo tree is woody. Today it is found at many locations in America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Two varieties of tamarillo – red and orange yellow, are popular. Tamarillo bears health benefits from the rich Vitamin A, Vitamin C and phytonutrients.
Tamamoro (Solanum betaceum) or Dutch eggplant are its other common names. In Malaysia, it is known by Buah Cinta, Moginiwang or Pokok Tomato. In Indonesia, where this plant was introduced by Dutch colonists, it is known as Terong belanda, meaning Dutch eggplant. In Europe, it is known by tomate de arbol (Spanish), tomate de arvore (Brazil, Portuguese). In India, it has local names in region where it is cultivated – hilly areas in North East and Nilgiri hills in South, namely ঊখামেন Ookhamen (Manipuri) and Marattakkali (Tamil). Ram bheda or rukh bheda is what its called in Himalayan country Nepal.
Tamarillo are cultivated in Brazil, Peru, other South America, parts of India and New Zealand, from where it is exported to other parts of country.
Tamarillo fruits are oval and egg shaped with smooth skin. Cut section appears very much like tomatoes, with little water and more pulp. More than 85% of its weight I made of flesh and seeds. A fruit may contain over 130 black gelatinous seeds. Flesh is juicy, sweet and tangy in taste. The outer skin is tough and edible, but is astringent and acidic. Dark fleshed tamarillos are more acidic and stronger flavor than orange tamarillo. It is eaten raw as fruit, in salads or used in making juices, jams, jelly or desserts.
Nutritional value of Tamarillo
Tamarillos offers good amount of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. It is rich in carotenoid pigments – β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, ζ-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, all of them show provitamin A activity. Together they offer Vitamin A value of 2475 IU (50% of daily requirement) for 100 g of edible fruit. Other vitamins include Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E. Together with Vitamin C, Vitamin A content in tamarillos make it very good antioxidant.
Phytonutrients in tamarillo are mainly Phenolics, Anthocyanin, Carotenoid and Flavonoid. Together they make tamarillo high in antioxidant activity. The color of the fruit differs according to phytochemicals present. Red variety offer more anthocyanins while yellow variety is rich in carotenoid. Apart from these, tree tomato contains citric acid and malic acid which enhance its acidic tangy flavor. Various other bioactive chemicals have been isolated from tree tomatos that are of nutritional and industrial importance.
Health benefits of Tamarillo
Just like we consider tomato a healthy food and consume it in our daily diet, tamarillo can be consumed for healthy well being and meeting our nutrient requirements. Various health benefits of tree tomato are discussed below:
Tamarillo has antioxidant activity
Latest research points out to development of various diseases due to free radicals and oxidative stress. Free radicals damage our body cells and thus their functioning. Phytonutrients in tamarillo offer excellent antioxidant activity and reduces risk of degenerative diseases like cataracts, cancer, heart diseases, Parkinson’s diseases, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and others. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and other phytonutrients have been attributed for antioxidant property of tree tomatoes.
Antioxidant property of this fruit is underutilized, as antioxidants are abundantly present in peel and flesh of tamarillos. Studies have found that peel had higher activity due to phenols and flavonoids, whereas peel has higher activity due to anthocyanins and carotenoids. This study suggests its potential use as natural antioxidant rich nutraceutical products.
Tree tomato good for eyes
We know tomatoes for their benefits to eye and improving vision. Tamarillos are equally beneficial for our eyesight. Vitamin A present in tamarillo keeps our eye healthy. Vitamin A keeps our membranes of eyes moist and acts as barrier for bacteria and virus. It reduces risk of eye infections. It contains various other nutrients which protects eye from oxidative stress and prevents degenerative eye disorders including cataract and macular degeneration.
Tamarillo for healthy heart
Potassium is nutrient present in ample quantity in tree tomato which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. It balances out harmful effects of sodium on heart. It offers magnesium and other minerals which are required for proper functioning of the cardiovascular system. High dietary fiber in tamarillo helps inhibit absorption of bad cholesterols in body. With its antioxidant activity it protects heart from oxidative stress and reduces risk of heart stroke and other cardiac disorder.
Tamarillos reduces risk of kidney stones
Citric acid are considered helpful in avoiding development and growth of kidney stone. It offers protective benefits by excreting out excess calcium and uric acid from the body. Acidic flavor of Tamarillos is due to presence of citric acid present. Adding tree tomato in diet reduces risk of kidney stones. However, no direct scientific evidence is available on benefits of tamarillos over kidney stones.
Tamarillos in preventing cancer
Rich phytonutrients present in tree tomato fruit help reduce risk of cancer by offering antioxidant properties. Anthocyanins have been established for their anti-cancer properties. Similarly lycopene in lab studies have showed to inhibit growth of cancer cells. As an antioxidant food, consuming tamarillos help in protecting body cells from oxidative stress and turning cancerous.
Skin benefits of tamarillos
Vitamin A, vitamin C and Vitamin E offered by tamarillos for building blocks of our skin. Thus regular dose of tamarillos ensure that your body is not starved of these nutrients and your skin is healthy. These vitamins along with other anthocyanins, phenols and flavonoids protect skin from oxidative stress. It can help prevent aging of skin due to pollution and UV light. Extracts of tamarillo have been employed in various skin formulations for their antioxidant property and benefits to skin. Just like tomato, they can be deployed in home remedies for various skin problems. Try out these homemade tamarillo face masks –
- Blend one cut tree tomato along with 2 tsp of oatmeal, to this add juice of one lemon to it. Apply this to your face and allow it to remain for 15-20 minutes. Rinse the mask with lukewarm water.
- This is tamarillo face pack for oily skin. Cut a tamarillo and remove seeds out of it. Add to this cucumber pieces. Grind them to obtain juice. Mix this with some honey and apply to your skin. Let it work for 20-30 minutes before you wash your face.
Tamarillo for diabetes
No substantial scientific studies are available for benefits of tamarillo over diabetes. Preliminary assessment suggests that chlorogenic acid present in tamarillo can lower blood sugar in type II diabetes. Further with its excellent antioxidant properties, it can reduces oxidative stress on body organs especially pancreas and liver which can lead to diabetes.
Tamarillo was found to offer broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity. This activity was result of protein which inhibits action of enzyme invertase. Study found its protective action over wide range of plant pathogens. With its antioxidant activity, it would offer benefits in prevention of infection in humans.
Benefits of tamarillo seed oil
Studies point out that Tamarillo seed oil is potential source of essential fatty acids and has applications in food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industry. Analysis of fatty acids present in tamarillo seeds show that it contains more than 70% of linoleic acid and 15% of oleic acid. High quantity of polyunsaturated fatty acid in tamarillo seed oil mainly from linoleic acid and linolenic acid has potential benefits to body. PUFA are also helpful for skin and heart. The composition is very much comparable to grape seed oil.
Other benefits of Tamarillo
With its Vitamin C content, it can offer benefits in treating colds, sore throats and other respiratory disorders. It help in improving immunity of body and protects from various infections.
Side effects of tamarillo
While it is widely used as food ingredient, tamarillo fruit in rare events may cause serious allergy and respiratory problems in people prone to allergy from other plants in its family like tomato, eggplant and tomatillo.
Healthy way of eating tamarillo
Ripe fruits can be eaten raw. While peel tastes bitter, it still offers various antioxands including anthocyanins.
The fruit is often given temperature shock – blanching in hot water for 2-3 minutes then placing it in cold water – to remove the peel. Flesh is often scooped out using a spoon. Sugar, salt or lime juice is sprinkled over cut fruit to reduce its acidity and enjoy flesh raw. Tamarillo juice can stain clothes and care should be taken while peeling or eating.
Tamarillo shake made from blending the cut fruit flesh in milk, sugar and ice is considered refreshing beverage in South America. Tamarillo sauce is used as replacement to tomato sauce. It can be used in almost all recipes where tomatos are used. With its high pectin content, it makes good ketchup, jam or chutney. Tamarillo chutney from New Zealand are popular these days. Use it in your green vegan salads or in sandwich or other desserts. Tamarillo jelly tastes great with ice creams. Tree tomatos offer color to your vegetable stews, pastas or other dishes. Just like berries, it can be used in making pie.
Tamarillo flavord kombucha tea tastes tangy, while they speed up the secondary fermentation in kombucha tea. Ram Bheda pickle is available in Nepal.
Try out this Tamarillo Muffins recipe – Preheat the oven to 200°C. Mix ½ cup of sugar, 2 cups of flour, 2 tsp of baking powder, bit of salt and mixed spices in a bowl. In a separate bowl mix other wet ingredients – a beaten egg, 100 grams of melted butter, ½ cup of milk. Add to this 1 cup of peeled and finely chopped tamarillos. Mix all wet and dry ingredients well. Grease the muffin pans. Place the dough in the muffin pan and top up with a slice of tamarillo. Bake for 20-30 minutes.
This Dutch eggplant juice from Indonesia – Take 100 grams each of dutch eggplant, red wind and plain yogurt each. Add condensed milk or honey as per flavor. Blend all ingredient into blender and puree. Pour in serving glass. Add more red wine or honey a per taste.
Add Tamarillo to add variety in your diet. It offers body with ample supplies of nutrients and healthy phytochemicals.Image Credits: Wikimedia - Orrling, Flickr - Sharon Lapkin, Flickr - indomacarons