How to Get Tree Tomatoes

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How to Get Tree Tomatoes
A cross section of the tamarillo, or tree tomato, reveals the seeds. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Valueline/Getty Images)

A native of Peru, Cyphomandra betacea is commonly known as the tree tomato or tamarillo. It is a relative of the tomato, potato and nightshade plants. Unlike the tomato, it has a thick, inedible skin and a sweet interior pulp. Tamarillos are in commercial production in New Zealand and California. The fruit is used in fruit salads, beverages and chutney. Somewhat of a novelty, the tamarillo tree is not usually sold at local stores but seeds are available by mail and online.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Flowerpots, 5-gallon
  • Potting soil
  • Mulch
  • Liquid fertiliser, 15-15-15
  • Measuring spoon, 1/2 teaspoon

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Order seeds or plants by phone or online from vendors such as Logee's Tropical Plants (logees.com) Grow Smart Indoor Garden Centers (growsmarthydroponics.com) or Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (rareseeds.com).

  2. 2

    Plant the seeds in large pots or outside after the last frost. Water thoroughly first, then pull the soil up into a 6-inch diameter mound. Place one seed on top of the mound and barely cover it with moist soil. Add a 2-inch layer of mulch around the mound; do not cover the seed.

  3. 3

    Place the pot in direct sun, sheltered from the wind. Keep moist until the seed sprouts, usually within 5 to 10 days. After the seedlings are established, allow the top of the soil to dry before watering.

  4. 4

    Fertilise weekly with a liquid 15-15-15 fertiliser. Mix 1/2 teaspoon into one gallon of water. Tamarillos are heavy feeders during the growing season. Stop feeding in the winter months or when the weather turns cool.

  5. 5

    Prune as needed to shape the tree. Like tomatoes, tamarillos grow vigorously and tolerate heavy pruning.

  6. 6

    Spray for aphids, mealy bugs, spider mites and whiteflies as needed.

Tips and warnings

  • Order seeds and plants from reputable nurseries. If ordering online, look for satisfaction ratings from customers. Avoid vendors with poor ratings.
  • Tamarillos survive temperatures as low as 35F. If you live in a cold climate, plant in pots and move inside in the late fall, before the first frost.
  • Fresh fruit is occasionally found at local farmers' markets.
  • Canned tamarillo chutney may be available through speciality food stores or by special order from your local grocery store.
  • The advertisements for "Giant Tree Tomato" are for a variety of tomato, not a tamarillo tree.
  • Due to cross-pollination, seedlings are not always true to the parent tree. If sprouting from fresh fruit, using a seed from the yellow fruit with yellow seed pulp provides the best results according to Julia F. Morton in "Fruits of Warm Climates."

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