Family Name: Cyphomandra betacea
Other Names: Tamarillo
The Tree Tomato is native to the Andes Mountains of Peru and Chile South America. It has become one of the most preferred fruit for saucers now cultivated in many parts of Kenya mainly for the export market. Although it looks much like medium sized tomato, the Tree Tomato is not a true tomato. Tasting somewhat like a tomato, it is usually eaten fresh, with sugar, or boiled to make a popular and refreshing drink.
The Tree Tomato is an erect, fast-growing, South American evergreen shrub with fleshy cordate, ornate leaves that are musky, odorous, evergreen, alternate, more or less heart- shaped at the base, ovate, pointed at the apex, 10-35cm long and 4-12cm broad, thin, softly hairy, with conspicuous coarse veins. The fragrant flowers are borne in small, loose clusters near the branch tips are 1.25-2cm wide, have 5 pale pink or lavender, pointed lobes, five prominent yellow stamens, and green-purple calyx. The long-stalked pendent fruit, borne singly, or in clusters of 3m to 12, is smooth, egg-shaped hut pointed at both ends arid capped with persistent conical calyx. In size it ranges from 5-10cm long and 4- 5cm long and 4-5cm in width. Skin colour may be low, or red and yellow, and may have faint dark, longitudinal stripes. Fresh colour varies accordingly from orange-red of orange to yellow or cream-yellow. While the skin is somewhat tough and unpleasant in flavor, the outer layer of flesh is slightly firm, succulent and bland, and pulp surrounding the seeds in two lengthwise compartments is soft, juicy, sub-acid to sweet; it I black in dark-purple and red fruits, yellow and orange fruits. The seeds are thin, nearly flat, circular, larger and harder than those of true tomato and distinctly bitter. The fruit has a slightly resinous aroma and the flavor suggests a mild or under ripe tomato with faintly resinous aftertaste. The plant is small, half-woody, attractive, fast growing, brittle tree; shallow rooted: reaching 10-18ft (3-5.5cm) in height; rarely as much as 25ft (7.5cm). It is shallow rooted. The fruit is many-seeded berry, egg shaped, two-celled like tomatoes and about 2-3 cm long.
As a natural remedy, the tree tomato is considered a fruit that relieves stress and helps to cure migraines and severe headaches. It is used to treat obesity – because it is low in calories – as well as high blood pressure. It also contains phosphorus, calcium, potassium, nitrogen, iron, beta-carotene (pro vitamin A), vitamin B 6, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E and carbohydrates. It is used for colds, sore throats, liver diseases and diabetes. It is said to improve the immune and circulatory systems.
There are apparently no named cultivars, but there are local preferences according to fruit colour;
- Red Fruits- Have been dedicated to fresh fruit markets due to their appealing colour.
- Dark-Red Strain- Also called “Black”, obtained by selection as a variation from the yellow and purple types. This red variety is large and of higher quality.
- Yellow Fruits- These are considered best for preserving because of their superior flavour.
Suitable Areas to plant: Tree Tomatoes can be planted in many parts of the country including Migori, Kisii, Kakamega, Meru, Muranga, Embu, Nyeri and Kericho. Areas prone to flooding and strong winds are not particularly suitable.