Before I came to Africa I had never heard of a tamarillo. The word sounds like an odd-looking mammal, let’s say an armadillo, or an Asian food paste, like tamarind. But now I know tamarillo is the name of the red, egg-shaped fruit that you can buy everywhere on the side of the road or in the local markets. I like to eat them in a smoothie with mango, or simply add them to yoghurt. Once adjusted to the taste, you can also cut them in half and scoop the flesh out with a small spoon like you would do with passion fruit or kiwi.
Until 1967 the tamarillo was simply called a tree tomato. A very practical name because it looks like a tomato and it hangs from a tree. After a marketing contest in New Zealand, the more exotic sounding name tamarillo was adopted for the fruit. At the time, the new name was explained as a combination of the Maori word tama (leadership) and the Spanish amarillo, which means “yellow” — and is also a city in the state of Texas. Looking at the bright red fruit, “yellow leadership” doesn’t really seem like a well-thought-out concept, I wonder what the prize was, and it reminds me of the Tour de France.
Perhaps the name of the fruit has something to do with the Latin word amarus, meaning “bitter”. I don’t know if the Romans also had a word for tangy, but the taste of a tamarillo is somewhat between bitter and tangy. It is bitter-tangy. For some people it is an acquired taste, and personally I find it close to a tomato and a passion fruit. If you have a sweet tooth, it’s best to add some sugar. If you like salty, you can add salt. It really is that simple. I like bitter-tangy. No, I am the personification of bitter-tangy. But only my best friends know this. You can’t eat the peel by the way. I know from experience that the peel is bitter-tough. The best way to peel a tamarillo is to drop it in boiling water, the same way you would peel a normal tomato.
Tamarillos are healthy. A short search on Google offers many promising results. If you eat enough of them, you will be blessed with radiant skin and healthy weight, you can ditch your prescription glasses and will never have a bad temper again. It sounds like a true superfood. Perfect for bitter-tangy people.