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Interesting fact
Nutritional benefits
Site selection
Major pests and diseases

The tamarillo (Cyphomnadra betecea (Cav.) Sendt) is a member of the Solanaceae family along with the potato, tomato, eggplant, and capsicum pepper.


The tamarillo was first introduced to New Zealand from Asia in the late 1800s. Only yellow and ‘purple’ fruited strains were produced from the original introductions, but the red type was developed by an Auckland nursery during the 1920s from seed sourced from South America. Other red strains, developed independently, appeared soon afterwards. Since then, continued reselection of these original red strains by growers has led to the large high-quality varieties that are available today.

Interesting fact

In the early days, tamarillos were referred to as tree tomatoes. However, on 31 January 1967, after almost unanimous agreement amongst growers and with the consent of what was then the New Zealand Department of Agriculture, the fruit’s commercial name was officially changed from tree tomato to tamarillo.

Nutritional benefits

The tamarillo is an extremely nutritious fruit, containing good quantities of several important vitamins – A, B6, C and E – and is rich in iron and potassium. The fruit is low in sodium. An average tamarillo contains less than 40 calories.

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Recipe for Tamarillo Muffins


½ cup sugar
2 cups flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup milk
100 g butter, melted
1 cup (approx 3) peeled and chopped tamarillos
1 extra tamarillo, peeled and thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly grease 8-10 muffin pans.
Place the sugar and sifted flour, baking powder and mixed spice in a bowl. Combine the egg, milk and melted butter.
Add the liquid ingredients and chopped tamarillos to the dry ingredients and combine quickly, until just moistened.
Spoon the mixture into muffin pans until almost full. Top with a thin slice of the extra tamarillo. Bake for 20-25 minutes depending on the size of the muffins. Makes 8-10
© Jan Bilton

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Site selection

The tamarillo is a subtropical shrub and is extremely frost intolerant so its growth is restricted to areas where frosts are infrequent and only slight.

The plant prefers a light, well-drained soil. It is highly intolerant of excess soil moisture and rapidly succumbs when the soil is waterlogged. On the other hand, its large soft leaves and shallow rooting system causes it to react unfavourably to drought conditions – it needs ample moisture during summer.

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Pruning period

Pruning can commence in early spring (August onwards) once the danger of frosts has passed and the majority of the previous crop has been harvested. This will vary from district to district, and from site to site within a district. It may continue through November and even into December. However, most blocks are pruned by the end of October.

Importance of pruning


  • Tamarillos produce their fruit on the current season’s growth. If trees are left unpruned, the new fruiting wood gradually extends from the ends of the branches and the laterals, leaving the centre of the tree more or less barren. Frequently the weight of the fruit produced on the ends of long, weak, spindly branches or laterals causes them to break.
  • Pruning in early spring or not pruning at all normally results in early maturity. Pruning that is delayed until November results in a later crop because of the enforced delay in spring shoot growth upon which new flowers will be born.
  • Light pruning (up to half of the old canopy) produces weak regrowth that branches and sets flowers quickly, resulting in a heavy, early maturing crop of small to medium sized fruit.
  • In contrast, hard pruning (back to near the original forks of the tree) results in vigorous regrowth. The crop from these is usually smaller in quantity but larger in fruit size, maturing a little later than lightly pruned tress of the same time.

Pruning, whether hard or light, is therefore recommended.

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Major pests and diseases

Some of the major diseases of tamarillos include the tamarillo mosaic virus, powdery mildew, and sooty mould. The major pests are whitefly, aphids and green vegetable bug.

One of the major pests of tamarillos is the aphid. Six species of aphid are known to attack tamarillos, but by far the most important of them is the green peach aphid (Myzus persicae).

It is most important to control aphids as they carry and transmit viruses in tamarillos. Aphids may be present on tamarillos for the whole year but are present in greater numbers from spring to autumn. Peak flights are in early spring, late summer and autumn. Although not particularly deleterious to plant growth, the main concern with their presence is the transmission of viruses such as Tamarillo mosaic virus (TaMV).

Ladybirds feed on this pest, so practices that encourage the presence and activity of ladybirds will prove beneficial.

Tamarillo mosaic virus (TaMV)
The disease symptoms of TaMV are a dark pale mosaic mottling on the leaf and fruit skin as well as unsightly irregular blotches that are a darker red than the normal skin colour. No symptoms appear inside the fruit and eating quality is not affected. On golden tamarillos, the darker red blotch is most unsightly because of the paler background colour typical of this class of fruit.

Once symptoms appear, the only control for TaMV is to remove severely infected trees.

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