Tamarillo or tree tomato (marathakkali) may not be a known fruit in the State but its sweet taste, a combination of passion fruit and tomato, will make you fall for it.
The egg-shaped pink fruit, believed to have arrived here during the British era, was once a darling of the local market, thriving in the subtropical climate here. Mainly planted in Ooty and Kodaikanal now, tamarillo cultivation at Kanthallur had fallen from grace over the years due to lack of marketing with the fruit fetching between Rs.50 and Rs.60 a kg.
“Tamarillo does not require much care and there is no need for application of pesticide or fertilizer,” says Sivan, a farmer who cultivates tamarillo as an intercrop.
Some visitors purchase it in bulk, he said adding that if there was a regular market, tamarillo would have been grown on a large scale.
The low-calorie fibre-rich fruit is a good source of iron and Vitamin A and C. An official with the VFPCK, who tried to promote the fruit, said farmers were reluctant to grow it as land holdings were small and it took about three to four years for the first yield. “It is only an intercrop now and the farmers get around 30 to 35 kg from a plant. There is good demand for the fruit in Tamil Nadu, though the VFPCK does not directly procure it from the farmers,” he said.
“Like the farm fresh apples and oranges of Kanthallur, tamarillo too will become a favourite of the visitors here,” he said.
He said tamarillo was a crop for the future and the eucalyptus grandis plantations here could be converted to cultivate tamarillo through a government plan. The fruit had good export potential, he said adding that it could be cultivated in fallow land under a government scheme.
“In Norway, where it is a major fruit crop, a single tree provides 50 kg of fruit annually. Tamarillo has good demand in the juice industry and value-added products there. It can be made highly productive as the tropical climate here is best suited for the plant,” he said. “Once you drink its juice, its taste lingers for long,” says Harikrishnan, who is associated with Horticorp here.Giji K.Raman