This original shrub can produce elongated tomatoes. Primarily used for food in its native region, South America, it is also used as a decorative plant in Menton. The tomatoes appear during spring at Val Rahmeh.
Solanum is a Latin word used to designate night-shades, probably derived from latin word ‘Solari’ (pertaining to the sun / relieving pain). Betaceum means “which resembles a beet” (beta in Latin).
Description and flowering period
Solanum betaceum is a shrub reaching 4 to 5 meters in height. The persistent leaves are cordiform (heart-shaped), light-green in colour and about 30cm long. The flowers are white or pale-pink and borne in clusters. The fruit, called “Tamarillo” resembles an elongated ovoid tomato measuring 5 to 10cm. It greatly varies in colour. The most commonly found varieties are orange with yellow flesh or red with orange flesh. The satin-smooth skin protects the flesh of the fruit which contains numerous black tiny seeds. Although ripe fruits are edible, the rest of the plant – including the unripe fruit – is toxic.
It requires a rich yet free-draining soil in a sunny but sheltered location. It is only suited to warmer climates as the plant dies at -3°C.
Food source: Only the flesh is eaten. It it used for its tangy flavour, raw with lime juice and sugar; in jams and preserves or as a juice (with added milk in Colombia and with added hot pepper sauce in Ecuador).
Widely cultivated locally throughout the Andes’ orchards and gardens, Tamarillo is one of the area’s most popular fruits. Today, its cultivation has expanded to other sub-tropical areas, such as South-East Asia, Oceania or South-Africa. In Madagascar, the species is now naturalised: it now grows spontaneously in the wild after having been introduced.
Translated by: François Saint-Hillier – MNHN