The tamarillo belongs to the Solanaceae family, to the genus Cyphomandra and to the species Betacea.
It is a fast-growing plant, up to 5 m high, which can acquire a bushy appearance and is very fragile, in fact it cannot complete lignification. The leaves are evergreen, heart-shaped, fleshy, slightly hairy, very large and with a long petiole; to the touch they give off a particular smell. The flowers are pink and are grouped in apical inflorescences, the flowering is scalar, in the Mediterranean basin it lasts from September to February; Unpollinated flowers fall spontaneously to the ground. The fruits are oval berries, pointed at the apex, enclosing a firm pulp and a softer core with seeds. The skin is smooth with a scarlet red, golden yellow or purple color, the inside of the fruit is very reminiscent of a tomato. The pulp is juicy, red, orange or yellow in color; the weight of the fruit can vary from 30 to 50 gr. The fruit has a clear aroma and its flavor is similar to that of a delicate or green tomato, with a characteristic sour note.
Climate and relief
the tamarillo prefers tropical and subtropical climates, but is also able to adapt to warm temperate climates; thermal values below zero and above 35 ° C can seriously damage the plant. During the autumn, it is advisable to cover with straw and dry leaves, creating a kind of protection against the winter cold; in frost-prone areas, a plastic bottle filled with water can be partially tied to the stem to protect the plant. Exposures in completely sunny areas are ideal in cold climates; in the hottest summer environments tamarilloIt develops optimally in medium light situations. It fears excessive winds because it is a very fragile plant; it prefers loose, fresh, deep, subacid and well-drained soils, while avoiding compact soils subject to stagnation of water. It is a plant native to South America, in Colombia it grows spontaneously between 1000 and 3000 m of altitude, it is widespread in Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Chile; It is currently cultivated in New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Africa and Israel, while in our country there are plants in the Vesuvius region and in Liguria.
Variety and diffusion
The most common commercial cultivars of tamarillo are: Ecuadorian Orange, Goldmine, Inca Gold, Oratia Red, Rothamer, Ruby Red, Solid Gold and Yellow. The tamarillo is propagated by seeds and by cuttings.
The method of propagation affects the type of plant to be obtained: plants obtained from seeds will be erect and well developed when mature, in fact the stem only begins to branch at a height of 2 m, while those obtained from from cuttings will remain small and bushy.
Planting distances are 1.5 X 1 m, with a density of 4000 plants/ha. The pruning, which is done every year, consists in eliminating the excess of vegetative parts to allow good fruiting, which occurs mainly on the shoots of the year. Through fertilization, the most important nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are supplied. It is possible to distribute mature manure at the end of winter; otherwise, complex slow-release fertilizer is administered, dividing it into 2-3 interventions. During the summer the water needs of the plant increase considerably and it is necessary to intervene with irrigation; Repeated phenomena of water stress can compromise vegetative development and fruiting. The harvest takes place from October to May, The fruits are harvested when they acquire the characteristic color of the cultivars, then they undergo post-ripening to favor the softening of the pulp. The tamarillo can be stored for 3 to 4 months in the refrigerator, keeping its organoleptic characteristics intact.