26 Feb2006


There was a lot of interesting stuff at the markets on Saturday. I got several items that I will feature in the coming days. The most unusual item I spotted were these fantastic looking “Japanese tomatoes” – according to my suki. He only had a dozen or so pieces and I was kind of intrigued but shocked by the PHP350 a kilo price so I bought just three pieces. I have never read about, seen or run across these tomatoes before. They have an elongated shape with somewhat pointy ends. My reference books have yielded nada on the fruit and a quick search on the internet didn’t yield any additional information. Even more reason to be intrigued, I thought. Probably not even a tomato… I have done several entries on tomatoes before but the shape, color, smoothness of the skin and firmness and density of flesh really had me wondering…

I sliced the tomato this morning and it yielded the most stunning color inside… blood aatom2red juices running freely, the most incredibly dark seeds and an unexpectedly tough skin. Even its fragrance was intriguing and rather strong by tomato standards. The structure of the fruit seems to point to a tomato. So with great expectations I popped a piece into my mouth and, well, it was truly disgusting! Bitter chewy skin, sour icky flesh and pulp… there must be something wrong. Is it unripe? Are they only used for cooked dishes? Will someone please explain these fruit to me? I would really like to know more as I must not have this right…

Postscript – I couldn’t stand it so I went to the bookstore to look this up. Turns out it is a Tamarillo or Tree Tomato (Solanum betaceum). And worse, you aren’t supposed to eat the skin. Yech, no wonder it tasted so awful. The Tamarillo is believed to be native to Peru, Chile and Ecuador according to Elizabeth Schneider’s book Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini. The fruit is usually pureed or chopped (without the skin) and used in sauces, soups and salsas. Mostly, it is cooked and always it is peeled…egads, I hope I don’t die from skin poisoning from eating the skin earlier… Lesson of the day? Don’t always believe what your suki tells you. Again, this is a Tamarillo, not a Japanese tomato!



  1. sister says:

    You may have purchased a Carissa. I checked my Book from the Rare Fruit Council “Tropical Fruit Recipes, Rare and Exotic Fruits” and it describes Carissa as:
    “Reddish fruits are ovoid to ellipsoid and up to 2 ” long. Papery skin covers reddish pulp with a white milky latex enclosing several circular seeds. Flavour faintly suggestive of raspberry.. Sauce made from fully ripe fruit tastes much like cranberry.”
    The picture in the book is very close to the one you have.

    Feb 26, 2006 | 4:27 pm


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  3. sister says:

    Also known as Natal Plum, grown primarily as an ornamental bush, native to South America.

    Feb 26, 2006 | 4:34 pm

  4. ANNE says:

    Tamarillos are red, egg-shaped fruit, formerly known here in New Zealand as “tree tomatoes” until someone thought up a more exotic name for export purposes. They are in season from April through to about December. They can be eaten raw or cooked. The skins are bitter and aren’t eaten so tamarillos are usually cut in half or topped like an egg and the flesh scooped out with a teaspoon, with or without the addition of a little sugar.

    They can be peeled like tomatoes – by steeping in boiling water before removing the skin. For today’s recipe, the skin is left on, but the flesh is scooped out for eating.

    “Got this from yahoo site…. =)”

    Feb 26, 2006 | 11:09 pm

  5. fried-neurons says:

    Interesting. Did you go back home and try it again, without the skin?

    Feb 26, 2006 | 11:11 pm

  6. ANNE says:

    Roasted Tamarillos https://www.suite101.com/files/articles/109000/109150/tamarillo.jpg

    It was amazing checking the pictures of Tamarillos down at yahoo…

    And that roasted tamarillos sounds interesting. =)

    Feb 26, 2006 | 11:13 pm

  7. Chris says:

    Oh, so a Tamarillo is a fruit? Thought it was a ground hog or something! Or is that an Armadillo? Heheheh

    I get excited too whenever I see fruits or vegetables that are exotic to me. Trouble is, when you don’t know what to expect, there’s really no way of knowing if you got a good specimen or not. It’s a shame when you get a bad one, first impressions are hard to forget, it could leave you scarred with an exotic fruit/vegetable aversion!

    Feb 27, 2006 | 3:38 am

  8. Tina says:

    As a New Zealander I am delighted to think we can buy Tamarillos here in Manila. We grew up with Tamarillos growing in the garden, and enjoyed them in a variety of ways. My favourite, a tamarillo chutney, absoultely wonderful with chicken or lamb. Or simply wonderful with cheese and bread.

    My father in law makes an interesting tamarillo wine, although I must admit it isn’t my favourite way to use them.

    Did you get these at Salcedo?

    Feb 27, 2006 | 8:49 am

  9. Marketman says:

    Tina, yes, I did get them at Salcedo hidden away at Joey’s vegetable stand (the biggest one around). He had no idea what it was but I still like the fact that he tries out new things… several weeks ago I got superb habanero chillies from him as well. Glad someone nows how to enjoy these…

    Feb 27, 2006 | 9:20 am

  10. MEL WOOD says:

    We have three tamarillo trees in our garden. Just like you, I did not like its taste the first time I tasted it. When I first came to New Zealand, I would look with disgust when my husband would scoop its flesh and have them as topping for his vanilla ice cream.

    Since we come from the tropics where fruit shakes are well appreciated, it came to me to try and make it into a shake.

    So I scooped the flesh of two tamarillos (to get rid of the pips, put just enough water with the flesh, use the BLEND of your osterizer for a few swirl, then strain the liquid). Put the liquid back into the osterizer with two cups of cubed ice, half a cup of sugar (or to your taste since this fruit is tart), and at least a cup of milk (again as you like it). The result was one very refreshing shake with a very beautiful purplish color.

    Now I have come to like the tamarillo, and am looking forward to winter when they will begin to fall from the tree. Yes, you do not pick them from the tree because they won’t be ready until they fall off the tree.

    I can take pictures of the tamarillo tree and send it to you if you like.

    Feb 27, 2006 | 4:13 pm

  11. Marketman says:

    Mel, that sounds great. I bet these were picked from the tree and not allowed to ripen, they just tasted raw-ish.

    Feb 27, 2006 | 4:42 pm

  12. goodtimer says:

    A chef friend in Baguio who introduced me to the fruit told them they were abundant in Baguio when she was a kid. They used to call it “Spanish Tomato”. It’s still grown in Benguet by organic farmers and sometimes available in Honey in the Rock, a store in Porta Vaga bldg., Session Road, that sells organic produce. Yes, the pulp is scooped out and best eaten when ripe. The taste/texture is a cross between a tomato and passion fruit and very fragrant. I was surprised about its price though. They can be bought in Baguio for just over a hundred/kilo.

    Mar 4, 2006 | 3:35 pm

  13. sister says:

    At the Enid Haupt Conservatory, New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, is a 10 ft high Tamarillo tree with several dozen fruit on it. Saw it yesterday while viewing the Orchid show.

    Mar 7, 2006 | 12:44 am

  14. philip says:

    hallo there

    I’ve actually eaten the same fruit a few years ago while in New York, I saw the fruit in one of the specialty superstores and found it enticing. Hahaha, I got the same reaction as you did, I didnt eat the skin though. I sliced it up crosswise and scoop out the flesh, and tasted exactly like tomatoes. Well tomato is considered as a fruit right. Some people can eat it like an apple, I cant. I guess its an acquired taste.


    Mar 11, 2006 | 5:06 pm


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