Tree Tomato Mornings in Rwanda

tree tomato 01I’m already missing my morning tree tomato. As some of you know, I spent much of February in Uganda and Rwanda as part of an international reporting fellowship through IWMF, the fabulous group heading up this ambitious initiative. I’ll have much more to share about what we did and where we went and the people we met, so stay tuned. But right now, let’s start with breakfast.

In Kigali, the Hotel Chez Lando offered an ample morning buffet with typical Western staples (toast, jam, cereal, eggs), plus a vast spread of plate-filling potatoes, hot vegetables, beans, stewed meat, ham and cheese, fresh fruits, juices, coffee and tea (both black and African—milky, with spices).

The one thing I reached for each morning was the tamarillo.

tree tomato 02This luscious fruit can look like a mango, perhaps a tomato, maybe even an apricot. Sometimes it’s red, sometimes it’s yellow. It has the tang of passionfruit and the deep, dark juice of a runny beet (with a bit of that earthiness too). Slice it open, scoop out the seeds and eat them in a syrupy clump. Or blend the whole fruit with banana and make a ruby-red shake.

tree tomato 03The tamarillo is also known as the tree tomato and is, in fact, a cousin to that other beloved fruit. It comes from the same family that gives us eggplants, potatoes and peppers. Unlike those crops, low to the ground, the tamarillo grows on trees that can reach 15 feet or more.

I first encountered the tamarillo in Nagaland, in the far northeastern reaches of India, several years ago on my journey to find the world’s hottest peppers. High in the Naga mountains, tamarillo is cooked in ash and eaten as a savory vegetable in curries, chutneys and “pickles.” The fruit is eaten when it’s tart, more akin to a slightly green tomato than a pomegranate bursting with juice. You can find a recipe here (if you don’t have tamarillo, substitute tart tomato). And—throwback—if you’re interested in the story of my Nagaland journey, visit this page and scroll down to a PDF of “The red hot chile peppers.”

More from Rwanda soon….

tree tomato 04

3 thoughts on “Tree Tomato Mornings in Rwanda

  1. When you could have tamarillo why would one want the same old buffet? Lucky adventurous you.

  2. Cool. I have a tree here in Oakland, CA. Though it’s managed to grow taller than me in the past two years, it still hasn’t produced any fruit (or flowers that I’ve noticed).

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