I love tamarillos, they represent the perfect fruit in my world. Beautiful little red parcels with a taste reminiscent of both tomato and passionfruit but unlike either. Fabulous. The only problem is that this year something stole all but 4 of my fruit.
In Melbourne tamarillos flower in mid – late spring with fruit developing throughout December and January. In late January I counted over 150 fruit on my tree. Then we went away for a couple of weeks in February. When we returned all but 7 of the fruit had gone. I could account for about 30 on the ground under the tree but the rest had vanished. I suspect fruit bats as I don’t think rats would carry away that many and I haven’t seen any other signs of possums. I have seen fruit bats though – I wouldn’t have thought they would be interested in unripe tamarillos but perhaps there isn’t much else around in February. Anyway, of the remaining 7 fruit a further 3 have subsequently disappeared leaving me with 4 still on the tree. They are not quite ripe yet – another week or two should be enough for the most ripe and perhaps late June for the least ripe. The ones pictured above are somewhere in between, they probably need another 3 weeks to a month.
How I grow it:
Tamarillos are vigorous, I grew mine from seed, sown 3 years ago and I pruned it last week as it was rapidly eating our washing line.
I collected the seed for this plant from a tamarillo a friend had picked from her neighbours tree. Her neighbour likes the tree but hates the fruit – a good neighbour to have. You can save the seed from any tamarillo, just scoop them out of the fruit, remove as much of the flesh as possible from the seeds and dry them on kitchen paper. Seeds can then be sown, ideally in Spring. Tamarillos can sometimes have a little hard lump in a small section of their flesh. Try and avoid saving seed from fruits with this lump as you may increase the likelihood of your plant having similar fruits. Having said that if you do get fruit with lumps in them its not the worst thing in the world as they are only small and there only seems to be one per fruit.
Tamarillo seedlings need to be potted up regularly before planting out in a sheltered warm position when they are about 30-40cm. The plant will need to be staked and sheltered from winds as they are not particularly strong and can easily be blown over and snap. Once the tamarillo is about a metre high you should pinch out the growing tip to encourage branching, after that all they need is a light prune each year after fruiting. Tamarillos fruit on new growth, so you want to encourage as much new growth as possible. I fertilise my tamarillo once a year in Spring, just after the fruit have set with a mulch of well composted manure and I water it regularly to ensure it doesn’t dry out. Tamarillos are fairly shallow rooted so you do need to keep the water up to them and mulch them well.
Aphids seem to love Tamarillos and I have found ants farming aphids on its leaves. Now that the plant is mature I deal with the aphids but blasting them off with water but when the plant was younger I did use Pyrethrum to kill them as I felt the blasting technique may harm the juvenile leaves. This year I plan to net the tree to keep the bats off it (if it is bats that are to blame).
How I use Tamarillos:
I eat them. Yum.