I just discovered a new fruit and a new favourite, a Tamarillo and Pear Jam. I was doing my weekly fruit and vegetable shopping last week. Looking through the shelves, I came across a bin half full of red egg shaped fruit. The label on the bin read Tree Tomato. They were quite reasonably priced and I came home with a small bag full.
A little searching later, I discovered they were also known as Tamarillo. It turns out that Tamarillo is known in parts of India like the North East and other cooler areas where it grows well. I have discovered that Kerala apparently grows it too. Here it is known as “Mara Thakkali” which directly translates as Tree Tomato!
The Tamarillo is originally from South America and belongs to the same family as tomatoes. There they are known as tomate de árbol (tree tomato). Tamarillos came to New Zealand some time in the sixties. The fruit was renamed Tamarillo to avoid confusion with tomatoes!
The Tamarillo is a bit tart with a hint of sweetness once it ripens. They are very popular in New Zealand and in Australia to some extent. It seems there are three varieties – yellow skin with yellow flesh, red skin with red flesh and red skin with yellow flesh.
My fruits were deep red inside. The seed arrangement was much like that of a tomato. A taste of it was mouth puckering sour which didn’t bode well in my mind. Suggestions from friends on using Tamarillo included eating the pulp sprinkled with salt, sugar or honey and making it into a chutney or jam. Other suggestions included baking with it.
A friend tells me they poach or stew them in a light syrup and have that for breakfast with porridge/oatmeal. It seems they’re very versatile to cook with. Tamarillos can be stir-fried, grilled, baked and barbecued. They can be made into an overnight compote as well. The fruit is cut, skinned, sprinkled with brown sugar and left overnight. By morning, the fruit turns into compote to serve with breakfast!
I discovered that Tamarillos have a high amount of pectin and are perfect to make jams, relishes and chutneys. I decided not to get too adventurous right off the bat and try something uncomplicated. So I made a Tamarillo and Pear Jam inspired by this recipe, and it’s my new favourite.
The pears give the jam body and the Tamarillos give it a deep almost ruby red colour. The jam has a slight tang, tastes a bit like tomato and a hint of something like Passion fruit or Cape Gooseberries. It goes very well on toast and on crackers with cheese.
Tamarillo and Pear Jam
- 8 to 10 red tamarillos
- 2 medium pears peeled and cored
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 1/2 tsp orange zest
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 small cube salted butter unsalted if you prefer
- Start by making a small shallow cross, with a sharp knife, at the pointed end of each Tamarillo. Drop them in a pot of boiling water and turn the heat off. Cover the pot and let them sit in the water for 5 minutes.
- Drain the water and refresh them in cold water. You should be able to peel off the skins easily now. Trim the top off each fruit and cut them into small pieces. Put them into a heavy bottom pan.
- Dice the pears. Blend them with the orange juice till smooth. Add this to the saucepan and place on the stove top. Add the sugar and stir till the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat, add the orange zest and let it simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Once it thickens to a jam like consistency (this won’t take long), stir in the butter. The butter will give the jam a nice shine and flavour. Let it cool and transfer to a sterile jar.