Tree Tomato? What is a Tree Tomato?!?
A s I wandered around the executive lounge at the Hilton Nairobi hotel, I noticed in an area of fresh fruit a somewhat small reddish object shaped almost like an egg but looking like a distorted plum.
“Excuse me. What is this?” I asked the attendant in the lounge, pointing at this unfamiliar fruit.
“That is a tree tomato”, she responded.
“Yes, sir”, she said, smiling as the question marks were popping out of my head in different colors. I had never heard of the name tree tomato.
Curious, I took one to sample. After sitting down at a small table, I cut one open.
The inside of the fruit was indeed reminiscent of a tomato — if you applied a little imagination.
Tasting a Tree Tomato
I then tasted it. My tongue was greeted with a pungent and tangy flavor that was both slightly sweet and slightly bitter and did have a hint of a tomato note — but it was no tomato. I then learned that it was the skin which contributed to the bitterness; so I scooped out the flesh — whose firmness and juiciness reminded me of a plum — with a spoon. The flavor did not improve much; and the seeds were larger and more firm than those found in a tomato.
Overall, the tree tomato was not terrible; but it is also not a fruit which I would crave to eat. I had a difficult time attempting to finish it — and was ultimately unsuccessful.
What Is a Tree Tomato — and How Can It Be Used?
Curious, I searched for the term tree tomato on the Internet and found that it is a nickname for tamarillo, according to this article found at Wikipedia. I have heard of a tamarillo but I do not recall ever having tried one.
Native to countries in northern South America, the tamarillo is apparently popular in certain local regions around the world. I am guessing that Kenya is in one of those regions.
A cursory search on FlyerTalk revealed that the tamarillo is used in a special juice known as a Martebe in which it is mixed with passion fruit; and meats such as chicken can be braised in the fruit. You can also find menu items such as octopus carpaccio served with frisee and braised vanilla tamarillo.
The tamarillo can be used for a wide variety of food applications, according to the aforementioned article — including being added as an ingredient to stews, juices, teas, compotes, preserves, sauces, chutneys and curries; or used in desserts. It can also be eaten raw.
If it were not for the seeds, a tamarillo might be something which I could learn to like. This is probably one of those fruits to which I have never paid any attention or was not aware; but I would not be surprised if it is destined to one day eventually become as popular as a kiwi fruit.
Have you ever tried a tree tomato or tamarillo? If so, what do you think about it?
All photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.