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.
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.
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.