Article from the Tropical Fruit News magazine of the Miami Rare Fruit Council International
by Gene Joyner

The Tree Tomato

 The tree tomato (Cyphomandra betacea) is an unusual large shrub native to Peru and is grown by some hobbyists here in South Florida. Is more happy though at higher elevations than sea level and sometimes although it will grow well, it doesn't form large quantities of fruit here in Florida.

The trees grow ten to twelve feet in height and may be single or multiple stemmed depending on how they are trained. The large somewhat oval leaves may be six to twelve inches long and are softly pubescent. The small pinkish fragrant flowers are produced in the spring and early summer and the fruits mature during the fall and following winter.

Mature fruits are about the size of a normal chicken egg and also about the same shape. Fruits at maturity can be orange, red, or purple, depending on the variety and internally somewhat resembles a tomato. Like tomatoes, it can be eaten as a vegetable and used in sauces, soups or other material and its most common way of being consumed is made into a conserve. It can be made into jams or jellies also, but unlike regular tomatoes when being cooked the seeds and skin of the tree tomatoes should be removed.

Trees are easily grown from seed and many people start trees from fruits purchased in local markets. selected varieties can be grown from cuttings and normally trees grow for about ten years before having to be replaced. The fruits, although they somewhat resemble tomatoes they do not have a tomato taste, but are pleasant for most people.

There are very few pests or diseases that bother tree tomatoes, however, occasionally spider mites during the spring dry season may cause leaf loss. Avoid planting tree tomatoes in poorly drained locations since they can be easily killed by even a few days of flooding. Nematodes are also a problem in more sandy soils in Florida and some people grow this plant in a large container to avoid nematode problems. Tree tomatoes are not extremely cold hardy and are injured by frost or freeze and should be protected in the landscape. Because of their large leaves, they require frequent irrigation and like to be heavily mulched in the garden to help slow water loss.

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Joyner, Gene. "The Tree Tomato." Tropical Fruit News, Miami Rare Fruit Council. Jan. 1993. Web. 18 Feb. 2017.

Published 18 Feb. 2017 LR
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