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October Fruit of the Month - Tamarillo


 

 

Tasty, tangy and relatively easy to grow, provided they are protected from winds, frosts and are planted into fairly free-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Which in practical terms means they are best suited to Northland, Auckland, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty. Though they can also be grown in other areas if they are in a frost free position or are grown in a greenhouse.

Originally from South and Central America, tamarillos first arrived on our shores in the late 19th Century. But it wasn’t until the 1960s that we really made them our own when the New Zealand growers association renamed them from tree tomato (as they are still called in the rest of the world) by combining the Maori word for leader (Tama) with part of the Spanish word for yellow (Amarillo).

The fruit itself is equally at home in sweet or savoury dishes, and tastes great stewed, in desserts, in chutneys, jams or jellies.

For our delicious tamarillo cheesecake recipe click here

 

 

Growing Tips

Position

Full sun, in a warm, sheltered spot. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter.

Planting

Mix in compost and sheep pellets with the soil when planting. In heavier soils, improve the drainage, add gypsum and plant into a slight mound.

Care

Protect from frosts with frost cloth.

Keep plant well watered and feed regularly with sheep pellets and Ocean Grow during spring and summer.

Note: If leaves are damaged and fall off by a surprise frost in warmer parts of the country, the plant will often regrow leaves, and the danger is lessened as they grow taller.

Common Problems

Environmental Damage 

Tamarillo need to be in a fairly sheltered frost-free spot. Often plants will recover from damage (I've seen plants fully defoliate from frost come back again the next year) but choosing a good spot to avoid issues saves a lot of problems.

Protect from frosts with frost cloth. Less protection will be needed as plants get bigger as once the leaves are over the frost line the plant will cope with some frosts.

Wet feet in winter 

In poorly draining soil wet feet can be a real issue as it can cause poor health and increase the risk of root rot. If you are planting in heavier soils (clay), in spots that tend to get wet over winter, do what you can to improve the drainage. Planting into a slight mound can also help.

Fungal Problems on the Leaves 

Tamarillo like their relatives tomatoes can be susceptible to fungal problems on their leaves in wet humid conditions.

Ensuring that there is good airflow around the leaves will reduce the risk.

Make sure not to plant tamarillo to close to other plants (leave 1.5 -2m). 

A strong healthy plant will be less susceptible to any issues, so make sure they are well fed and are watered deeply when necessary during the drier parts of the year (especially when they are getting established). Mulching regularly with compost or More than Mulch will help suppress weeds, improve soil and help reduce the watering needs of the plant. Make sure leave the area around the base of the plant slightly clear as mulch against the stem can cause problems.

Spraying with a liquid copper can act as a preventative. Spray thoroughly at the end of winter.

If only one or two leaves is affected, remove them and dispose of in your rubbish (don't compost them).