Plant profiles: Tamarillo

This is #3 in the plant profiles series and a good time to write it as my tamarillos are starting to ripen at last:

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They’re really ripe when the colour changes from purplish to bright pillar-box red and that’s when I pick them.

You don’t see tamarillos much in the shops in this country (at least not where I live), so I assume no-one is growing them as a crop. The only time I did see them in the supermarket, they were selling at about $1.75 each, so it’s no wonder they’re not well known.

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While I was researching this post I came across the Wikipedia entry which is about as comprehensive as it gets, so to save myself a lot of typing I’m going to be lazy and link to it here. (Some of my regular readers (hi Fran), who do ferments might be interested in the bit under the ‘culinary use’ heading about using tamarillo to flavour kombucha tea).

Anyway, I can confirm that the plants are shallow-rooted and blow over easily. I can also confirm that they will grow easily from seed or cuttings. I cut the tops out of my plants when they’re about a meter high, to encourage them to branch, otherwise they form a tall trunk and when they do branch, the fruits are too high to reach.

The leaves are dinner-plate sized and have a distinctive, unusual (unpleasant to this nose) smell when you touch them (Wikipedia doesn’t mention that) and they don’t like hot sun. Last summer’s temperatures did this to mine:

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Growing them in a hugelkulture situation might be a good way to overcome the shallow root problem, although I haven’t tried it.Β  I would plant a group of 3-5 in a slight depression (must be well-drained soil though), and heap logs and cut branches around the roots for stability then top up with some rich, composty mulch.

I can’t confirm that they’re short-lived, having had no deaths yet from natural causes (some have blown over and died), but to be on the safe side, I usually sow some seeds every year and can always find somewhere to add a few extra plants.

If you would like some fresh seed, let me know via the comments box (only if you’re in Australia though) and I’ll organise a post-out.

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20 Responses to “Plant profiles: Tamarillo”

  1. k8heron Says:

    Oh I’d love some seeds to try. I’ve never grown or eaten tamarillo!

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  2. quarteracrelifestyle Says:

    I absolutely adore tamarillos but at $20 kg here I never get them. We did try one years ago but didn’t realise they were frost sensitive and it died. Might be time we tried another, this just made me drool!

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Wow! That is expensive! I just weighed one and it was 50 g. That means 20 to the kilogram which (at $1.75 each which I saw them at), would be $35 a kilo. Even worse! I think I should go into the tamarillo business!

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  3. rabidlittlehippy Says:

    I tried to grow one but a combination of heavy soil and hot summer turned mine into a piece of planted kindling. 😦 I would love some seeds to try but guess they’re a spring planting. Better get my garden beds in first methinks. πŸ™‚

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      If you sowed the seeds this year, the plants wouldn’t be ready to plant till the following year anyway. Let me know if you change your mind.

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  4. Bek Says:

    I’m generally the first to put my hand up for free seeds, but I don’t like tamarillos… Lovely of you to share the tamarillo love though.

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  5. river Says:

    Hi to all,
    We have been growing Tamarillos on and off for over 30 years now. They are very easy to grow and have that subtropical look that I like. We have just finished making spicy Tamarillo chutney as well as Tamarillo jam. The jam is fantastic it tastes like strawberry jam a little. All jams ,pickles ,chutneys we make are gluten free and taste wonderful. All the best to everyone from the Hunter Valley in NSW.
    Regards,
    River

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  6. fergie51 Says:

    I’ve been trying to find a plant for a while so some seed would be great! Happy to swap some Rocoto chilli seed, which are a perennial variety or blue lake bean seed, or black hollyhock if interested. Cheers.

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  7. narf77 Says:

    You know me SO well Bev ;). “Hi Bev” :). It’s as cold as a witches breast here on Serendipity Farm and although we are on the water we have been accomplishing temperatures bordering on the negative for the last week. I am NOT complaining but if I had a tamarillo I bet “it” would be! In saying that, my veggie garden seems immune to frost now that I have covered it completely. Must have made a little microclimate inside as the summer pumpkins are basking in happiness inside while the grass outside is crackly and white and crunches under the dogs and my footsteps. Those summer pumpkins are refusing to stop and are still producing flowers and fruit. I am actually scared of them! I would LOVE some seed to give them a go here. I will plant them inside the veggie garden where they can live hugel style and with shallow roots it will be perfect for them as they will be forced to live in a hugel as the soil up there is predominately rocks. I know what you mean about that smell…it’s sort of menacing. You certainly wouldn’t want to chew on a leaf ;). A friend had one and it died of frostbite but he could care less about where he planted it and left the poor thing in the worst place he could have planted it. He isn’t a gardener though so I guess that’s to be expected. Again “yes PLEASE” for some seed πŸ™‚

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Will start extracting seed from them from now on. Looks like I’ll need a lot πŸ˜‰

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      • narf77 Says:

        Lol πŸ™‚ Should give you something to do for the next week or so ;). Steve has almost finished those garden beds and they look wonderful. I will be doing a blog post about them. Cheers SO much for your help and your links about them. He has worked out a really good way to check water levels and the whole system is about to be planted out. I will link to your wicked water bed page in my post. Lots of my dear constant readers are now your dear constant readers because whenever I need to point people in the right direction for quality permaculture info I immediately think of you :). Thank you for being my resident expert πŸ™‚

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        • foodnstuff Says:

          And thank YOU for pointing people in my direction. I’ve had quite a few new sign-ups lately πŸ˜‰

          Looking forward to seeing the results of Steve’s project!

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