Markets: Cambridge 29th & Hamilton 30th June

What a great weekend we had last weekend – The sun came out just as I hoped for last week, and lots of customers emerged from their winter hibernation, if only for a few hours, to enjoy the music and atmosphere of a busy colourful winter market. Everyone was in such a good mood too. Very pleasant.
This week’s blog is devoted entirely to Tamarillos. Why? Because they’re worth it. –

Jillian from Fruition is an expert on these interesting winter fruits which are poorly understood by the average person in the street or in the market so here is some up to date info on how to get the best out of these vitamin and pectin packed ruby beauties.

Tamarillos are members of the Solanum /Nightshade family which include potatoes, egg plants, tomatoes and capsicums. You can tell this by the shape of the blossoms which resemble the flowers of all of the above. They originated in Peru like so much of the Solanum family, and were known as Tree Tomatoes until 1967 when the Tree Tomato Export Board of New Zealand changed the name to the more exotic ‘Tamarillo’ to distinguish them more clearly from ordinary tomatoes. Tama being the Maori word for  ‘Leadership’ and the ending  ‘’rillo’’ to make it sound exciting. So as well as renaming the Chinese Gooseberry as the very clever ‘Kiwifruit’, those in the fruit export business, tried to do the same with Tamarillos. They contain good quantities of Vitamin A, B1 and are an excellent source of Vitamin C and E. They are rich in iron and potassium and are a good source of fibre, low in calories and are cholesterol free. A bit of a super food some may say. However the demand for Tamas as they are known in the trade, is a fraction of that of Kiwifruit. This is because people have yet to learn the 2 Step secret of Tamarillo preparation which I am going to share with you now…
Step 1) With a sharp knife, incise a cross over the pointy end of 5 or 6 Tamarillos then pop them into boiling water in a saucepan ensuring they are fully covered with water, and poach gently for about 3 minutes. Once cool enough to handle you can then peel the skin off like you would a banana. This method partially cooks the fruit allowing it to be utilised right to the skin and thus giving you more bang for your buck.

Step 2) Slice up each tamarillos and place in a bowl discarding the tougher stem end. Cover with about two tablespoons of sugar and leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes. This allows the glorious deep red syrup to seep out of the fruit which nullifies the slightly bitter taste of the fully raw fruit.

You could substitute the sugar with marmalade – this imparts a lovely orangey sweetness which enhances the complex flavours of tamarillos beautifully.

The resulting compote can be used in several healthy ways:
- Stirred through natural yoghurt and soaked raw oats for a sustaining breakfast
- Mixed with chopped apples as a winter fruit salad for a good-for-you dessert
- Mixed with chopped apples and covered with a oat, seed and nut crumble topping. Toasted granola would be good.
- In a smoothie with yoghurt and chia seeds or LSA for a power punching meal-on-the-run
- As a filling for a pancake or a pour-over for pikelets.
The high level of pectin in tamarillos and their acidic tendency means that they are equally at home with savoury use. The pectin makes it a perfect chutney setter. It only requires a few tamarillos to create a chunky relish made with brown sugar, vinegar, onions and spices. Remember it is a relative of the Tomato family which is the base of most of our favourite chutneys, so nothing new here.
Because it is not sweet unless sugar is added, Tamarillos can be lightly salted and used as a tomato replacement during the winter months. Prepare by poaching for 3 minutes and peeling and slicing as outlined above but this time sprinkle over a little salt instead of the sugar. Put in a separate serving dish for people to help themselves as tamarillos do tend to colour everything else on the plate, like beetroot does.

For a raita to accompany a hot curry - add some finely chopped onion and a smidgeon of sugar to the prepared tamas. This adds an entirely new dimension to curry by providing a cooling savoury layer of flavour.

Finally, did you know that Tamarillos are dead easy to grow from seed? Take the seedy pulp and spread in onto potting mix – no need to clean the seeds first. Cover with a thin layer of potting mix and keep moist until the first little shoots appear. They need to be kept warm, moist and under cover during the winter. You should get a good strike from fresh seeds. Transplant about 10 of the strongest seedlings to individual pots and keep them indoors until October when they can be planted out into a sheltered sunny spot. Keep well supported on wires or trellis as Tamarillos grow very fast but are very brittle. You should have your first crop in 2 years which is amazing really. They need stern pruning to keep them under control and also the fruit occurs on new wood. The 4th year is the best year but plants grow and produce for up to 12 years. Although you may end up with 10 plants which are far too many for the average family so share them around with friends and family. They will be big enough for cool Christmas Presents if you plant them now.

Now if you couldn’t be bothered with all of this – just rock up to the Hamilton or Cambridge Farmers’ markets and check out the Tamarillos growers there. July is the peak harvest for Tamarillos. They continue to ripen off the tree so if you get fruit with green shoulders just keep them in your fruitbowl or in a paper bag in your hot water cupboard for a few more days. When they are ruby red right up to the stem, they are ready to poach and peel.

If you have any suggestions for Tamarillo use or if you remember how they used to be used as Tree Tomatoes in the olden days, please post a message on our facebook page and share your thoughts and ideas.

Happy poaching!

Meg Daly
Celtic Cuisine