Archives for posts with tag: tree tomato preserves

A late summer vegetable garden is not a pretty sight. Weeds take over, plants die down, platoons of snails munch their way through layers of leaves on young cabbages, beans dry on the plants, fruits rot on the ground and mutant courgettes abound. So it was with some trepidation that I stepped out into the vegetable garden last Friday with the sole aim of gathering enough produce to make a platter of snacks for an impromptu drinks party. A few minutes later I scampered back into the kitchen  and found myself frantically paging through a pile of recipe books looking for inspiration. There was more produce than I could possibly have imagined, although how to turn it into a platter of snacks would certainly be a bit of a challenge. Veg bowl march 2014

  • A giant butternut
  • Three large and three small aubergines
  • Rocket – more than we could imagine using
  • Basil – an abundance of  very large healthy leaves
  • Red, yellow and green peppers
  • Red and green cabbages
  • 56 granadillas
  • 3.5 kg tree tomatoes
  • Huge bunches of sage
  • Onions
  • Spring onions
  • Beetroot
  • String beans
  • Lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Chillies
  • Lemon grass
  • Three smallish and possibly inedible mealies – they turned out to be perfectly sweet  and lovely
  • Some mis-shapen courgettes

Well, between the garden produce, the still very full store cupboard and a trip or two to the Cheese Gourmet in Linden we have eaten very very well this  past week.

Friday night snacks:

  • Wraps (from the store cupboard) filled with hummus (home made the previous week), pesto made from basil and McGregor almonds, rocket, a drizzling of sweet chilli sauce and butternut roasted with z’atar
  • Lettuce  and Swiss chard leaves with a filling made of a tin of store cupboard cannellini beans with finely chopped lemon grass and fresh kaffir lime leaves with red pepper and mealie kernels.
  • Cheese served with tree tomato jam and tree tomato jelly flavoured with rose and vanilla (previously made)

Sunday night dinner party for a group of 80-something-year-olds

  • Borscht made with beetroot, onion and red and green cabbage
  • Buckwheat and spring onion blinis
  • Granadilla curd served with a dollop of yoghurt


  • Conchiglioni  and cannelloni filled with a butternut, red and yellow pepper, and sage filling baked on a bed of aubergine and tomato ‘jam’ x 2 suppers
  • Thai inspired Norwegian wild mushroom risotto with aubergine, string bean, courgette, chilli and basil cooked with lemon grass-infused coconut milk.
  • 100% pork, preservative free Peter James-Smith Italian Salsiccia and English Breakfast sausages from the Cheese Gourmet with a red cabbage, rocket, basil and red pepper salad.
  • Left-over borscht


  • Two huge jars of granadilla curd
  • Three jars of tree tomato jelly flavoured with bay leaves, star anise and rose water


  • One loaf of Rosie’s bread
  • Bran rusks

And then to round it all off this Friday’s supper was a tofu stir fry loosely based on Yotam Ottolenghi’s  Brussels sprouts and tofu recipe. We substituted red cabbage for the Brussels sprouts, tree tomatoes for the mushrooms and basil for the coriander. And the whole family devoured it. A nice surprise.


There is a plant in our garden that I love even more than the abundant Passiflora edulis and that is the more gloriously abundant Cyphomandra betacea, more commonly known as the tree tomato or tamarillo.

I have wanted to grow tree tomatoes for many years – ever since my sister-in-law gave me a small jar of tree tomato jam. I thought it so delicious that I have been looking out for a plant at every nursery that I go to. So when I saw three plants at our local nursery I snapped them all up and planted all three in a cluster in what was supposed to be a strictly indigenous part of the garden. Well, I have now modified the rules for this part of the garden and it is allowed to include plants that are not indigenous as long as they can be used in cooking and don’t need any cosseting.

I adore this wonderful plant that has been producing fruit unabatedly for about two years now. Even in the depths of the harsh Highveld winter we have regularly harvested fruits and sliced them into salads.

Tree tomatoes are native to the Andes and although not wildly common in South Africa they seem to be very popular in Australia and New Zealand. There is even a New Zealand Tamarillo Growers Association and judging by the success we’ve had in our relatively haphazard suburban Johannesburg garden I think it might be a good idea to start a South African Tamarillo Growers Association.


I love the fruits peeled and sliced into a green salad with feta and a lemony honey and mustard dressing. They are good as a garnish on a Moroccan flavoured couscous and chickpea salad. But best of all I think is how, preserved or slow roasted, they work with all types of cheese from fried haloumi to soft creamy chevin, from brie to blue cheese and from sharp cheddar to gruyere.

The trees are laden at the moment so in the coming weeks I think I’ll be working out a good jam recipe and will also be trying:

Tree tomato Tamarillo

Tree tomato preserves

Pour boiling water over the tree tomatoes. Leave for a couple of minutes and then peel.. Keep the oval fruits whole.

Weigh them and stir in 750 grams of sugar to every kg of fruit. Leave overnight so that the sugar dissolves and ruby red juices collect.

The next morning add a handful of fresh bay leaves, a stick or two of cinnamon, 12 or so black pepper corns and 4 or 5 whole star anise per kg of fruit.

Bring slowly to the boil and then lower the heat and cook very gently until the fruit is beautifully red, translucent and the juices thickened.

Bottle in sterilised jars and enjoy with almost any cheese you can imagine or with cold meats.

Tree tomatoes roasted in wine

Peel the tree tomatoes as above and again keep them whole.

Place in a small roasting dish with the same spices as used in the preserved tree tomato recipe – a handful of fresh bay leaves, a stick or two of cinnamon, 12 or so black pepper corns and 4 or 5 whole star anise.

Add a very generous splash or two of either red or white wine – whatever you have open – and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Roast in the oven until the tree tomatoes are very tender and the wine has turned syrupy. Serve warm with slow roast lamb shoulder and any greens or at room temperature with cheese and rocket on crusty brown bread.