Its rich ruby colour, tartness and strength of flavour makes tamarillo an ideal winter fruit. Its peak production is over the winter months of June/July/August. But did you know that the tamarillo was a New Zealand invention?
This fruit originated from South America but red tamarillos were developed and named here in New Zealand. I clearly remember them as tree tomatoes and kiwi fruit were called Chinese gooseberries. Both fruits were renamed to be more attractive for marketing overseas. In 1967 Mr Thompson from the Tree Tomato Promotions Council came up with ‘tamarillo’, claiming it sounded both Māori and Spanish.
Tamarillos can be tricky to grow as their large subtropical leaves are easily burnt by frost. Young trees can be set back and even killed by a surprise frost, and this perhaps is the reason why we pay a high price for the fruit.
You can sometimes find a bargain from a roadside stall and if you are lucky a home gardener will share some with you, but mostly you have to pay around $14 a kilo for these precious egg shaped fruits.
I always want to make the most of them and have recently been introduced to the idea of using them in a salad.
Raw tamarillo is high in vitamin C so is a great addition to a winter slaw. Like beetroot it does colour everything red. Red is such a good salad colour in winter so I decided to select all the vegetables and fruit in the salad based on the colour red and made my version of tamarillo slaw.
The quantities of vegetables and fruit you use will depend on how many people you are feeding. I made enough for 4 as a side serving or 2 with this salad as the main event.
I used about 1/4 red cabbage, with core removed and really finely chopped or shredded in a food processor.
1 tamarillo peeled and chopped finely
1/2 red onion also finely chopped
1/2 medium sized beetroot grated
1 red-skinned apple finely sliced and then diced. The apple adds sweetness and another texture. To keep it from turning an unsightly brown give a good squeeze of lemon juice over the apple and mix.
This is the texture and colour of the slaw before I added the apple.
To add a little sweetness and bite I mix 1 heaped teaspoon of quince paste to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. If you don’t have quince paste you can use another fruit jelly or honey. Mix until the paste dissolves and add and mix through to the slaw.
I added a few cranberries to follow the red theme, then toasted a handful of hazelnuts rubbing off their brown papery skin before sprinkling over the slaw. You can use whatever nuts or seeds you have in the pantry.
The final touch of green are some sprigs of herb Salad Burnet, but parsley or mint could be used instead.
I found this Jan Bilton recipe that I couldnt resist trying.
Jan suggested just one tamarillo but I found in the large processor I had I couldn’t get it to puree so I ended up making the mix with 2 tamarillos.
Two skinned tamarillos cut in half and pureed in food processor, slowly add half a cup of your favourite salad oil. Best not to use highly flavoured oils like olive oil as you want the tamarillo flavour to dominate.
This dressing would work well with a simple green salad as well or drizzled over avocado. It’s the kind of dressing that makes a bold statement on the plate.
Like tomatoes tamarillos are easily peeled if dunked into boiling water for about 20 seconds. Run a knife around it’s middle and the skin comes off easily leaving you with all the precious fruit.
Spring is an energising season and I’m having a preview of spring here in Auckland with daffodils and freesias blooming showing little memory of winter’s cold. In the south the garden is still in hibernation, but the days are getting longer and there is a promise of spring in the air…it could be just around the corner.