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  • Writer's pictureRoger Tripathi

Back to the Roots

Tamarillo tree on a farm

Welcome to my new column about specialty crops in Indonesia

Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.

During my trip through Indonesia I learned a lot about the country, the kind people and also about agriculture!

In this series of little articles I would like to describe discoveries and interesting insights about how the Indonesian people use their plants in the preparation of their traditional foods.

By doing this I hope to show how the people harvest and use the produce provided by nature for cooking their meals. Many of these delicious ingredients we know from our own kitchens, but others not at all!

Lets start with a rarely known fruit grown in tropical climes, including higher altitudes in Malaysia, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.

An Indonesian Tamarillo tree

Tamarillo (Solanum betaceum)

The tamarillo is a small tree or shrub in the family Solanaceae (the nightshade family). It is commonly known as the tree tomato, tomate andino in South America , and terong Belanda (Dutch eggplant) in Indonesia. Tamarillo is popular globally, especially in New Zealand, Ecuador, Australia and the United States.

This is an interesting fruit, that grows like an apple , but if you eat it like an apple, you will be disappointed as it has a bitter taste! The fruits contain lots of vitamins and iron and few calories (only about 40 calories per fruit), which make them an attractive and valuable food for humans. One single mature tree in good soil will bear more fruit than a typical family can eat in about 3 months.

Tamarillos in the market place

The trees are found in the wild, or grown in gardens or small orchards on the Sulawesi and Sumatra Islands. Consequently, the fruit is harvested by small scale farmers and growers and sold at the local markets.

So, what are the benefits of this fruit if you don’t eat them like apples, you may ask? Well, if processed into juice, compote or jam, it changes completely, turning into a very delicious snack, drink or add on for sauces, baked goods, breakfast dishes and chutneys! It has such a fine and juicy taste, you will want more once you try them.

Mmm — why not? I recommend you watch for these incredible Tamarillo fruits and products — whether in your local Fairtrade markets or shops and even in Supermarkets they will surely appear in no time!

Tamarillo Jam


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