Tree Tomato
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Tree Tomato
ntroduced Photo: Thingnam Girija
Common name: Tree Tomato, Tamarillo • Manipuri: ꯎꯈꯥꯅꯦꯟ ঊখামেন Ookhamen • Tamil: Marattakkali • Mizo: Thing-tomato • Angami: Seibengeno, Seibengenuo
Botanical name: Solanum betaceum    Family: Solanaceae (Potato family)
Synonyms: Cyphomandra betacea, Solanum crassifolium, Cyphomandra crassifolia

Tree Tomato is a small, half-woody, attractive, fast-growing, brittle tree, with shallow roots, growing to 10-18 ft tall, rarely as much as 25 ft. Alternately arranged leaves have a musky fragrance, and are more or less egg-shaped, heart-shaped at the base, pointed at the tip, 4-13 inches long and 1.5-5 in broad, thin, softly hairy, with conspicuous coarse veins. Fragrant pale pink flowers are borne in small, loose clusters near the branch tips. They are 1-2 cm across, have 5 pale-pink or lavender, pointed petals, 5 prominent yellow stamens, and green-purple sepal cup. The long-stalked, pendent fruit, borne singly, or in clusters of 3-2, is smooth, egg-shaped but pointed at both ends and capped with the persistent conical sepal cup, just like tomato. In size it ranges from 2-4 in long and 1.5-2 inches wide. Skin color may be solid deep-purple, blood-red, orange or yellow, or red-and-yellow, and may have faint dark, longitudinal stripes. Flesh color varies accordingly from orange-red or orange to yellow or cream-yellow. While the skin is somewhat tough and unpleasant in flavor, the outer layer of flesh is slightly firm, succulent and bland, and the pulp surrounding the seeds in the two lengthwise compartments is soft, juicy, subacid to sweet. The fruit has a slightly resinous aroma and the flavor suggests a mild or underripe tomato with a faintly resinous after-taste. Tree Tomato is native to South America.

Identification credit: R.K. Nimai Singh Photographed in McLeod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh.

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