The tamarillo, commonly known as tree tomato is a subtropical fruit that is grown in many parts of the world. Native to South America, the tree tomato is a distant relative of the Tomato, the Mexican Husk Tomato, the Tomatillo, the Cape Gooseberry, the Pepino Dulce, the Naranjilla, and the Cocona.
With a production lifetime of 12 years, and reaching peak harvest time in 1 to 3 years, tree tomato farming can be profitable if the trees are well taken care of.
Tree tomato farming is gaining momentum in the Kenyan market due to the demand for the fruit, in both the juicing and fresh fruit market.
Health Benefits of tree tomatoes
Tree tomatoes are packed with nutrients that help improve your immune system. It contains B-complex vitamins such as niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin. It also contains calcium, potassium, carbohydrate, protein, fat, and sodium. Minerals such as manganese, magnesium, copper, zinc, and iron are stored in your tree tomato.
Tree tomatoes contain excellent antioxidants. If you want to reduce oxidative stress in your body, eating the pulp of this fruit, or consuming the juice on a light stomach will ensure the best results. Moreover, chlorogenic acid present in tree tomatoes helps lower blood sugar levels in diabetes mellitus patients.
The acidic properties of the juice of tree tomato help cut down excess fat in your body. It can accelerate the results of weight loss. Its juice acts as a detoxifier when you consume. Just as regular tomatoes, tree tomatoes have vitamins A, C, and E that act as remedies for various skin problems.
Varieties of tree tomatoes
There are various tree tomato varieties grown in Kenya. You can distinguish by their respective color. Yellow fruit variety has a superior flavor. For this reason, this kind is good for preserving. Red fruits variety has an appealing color. It is normally chosen for the Kenyan markets. Black or dark-red variety has a higher quality and is large.
Other varieties in Kenya are the Gol-mine, Inca red, Rothamer, Solid gold, Red Oratia and Ruby red.
Ecological Requirements for tree tomatoes
Your tree tomato will flourish in subtropical climates. They grow well in altitudes between 1,500m to 3,000m above sea level. It does well when temperatures remain above 50º F (10º C). Your trees also require well-drained fertile soil, rich in organic matter. They grow naturally on soils with a pH of 5-8.5. Perfect drainage is necessary.
Tree Tomatoes yield per acre
An acre piece of land can accommodate 1000 tree tomato plants. You are advised to buy quality seeds. Regardless of the size of your land, you can plant your tree tomatoes even on a ¼ acre.
Land preparation for planting tree tomatoes
Your land should be located in a place with an adequate supply of water. In Kenya, you can plant your tree tomatoes in places like Western, parts of Nyanza, Central Kenya, Taita Taveta, and some parts of the Rift valley.
You need to till your land 2 to 3 months before planting. Tree tomatoes require adequate watering at least once a week. A water tank or any other source of water for irrigation comes in handy during the dry season.
Nursery preparation for tree tomatoes
You are advised to plant your seeds in a nursery for 54 days. Many farmers in Kenya prefer sowing the seeds directly in the field. You can transplant them when they are about 2-6 inches.
Transplanting tree tomatoes
Dig holes measuring 1.5 feet deep for planting your tree tomato. The spacing for tree tomato should be 2.5 to 3 m apart between plants and 3 m between the rows or 1.0-1.5m between plants and 4.5-5.0m between rows.
You are advised to leave a shallow depression for introducing mulch to your plant. When planting the seedlings, mix one and a half wheelbarrow of well-prepared compost manure with two spades-full of topsoil.
Irrigation Requirements for tree tomatoes
Your tree tomato requires ample water supply. It cannot survive in areas with a prolonged drought. As you plant, you need to consider an area with sufficient water. Each plant will require at least 20 liters of water per week. You can introduce mulch to your crops to conserve moisture.
Diseases affecting tree tomatoes
You are advised to apply relevant preventive fungicides before disease invasion. This helps to avoid significant losses. The known diseases that may attack your tree tomato grown in Kenya include;
- Blight– You will notice dark brown spots developing on older leaves. The infected leaves turn yellow and fall off as infection advances. Spots may appear on stems which enlarges as severity increases.
- Powdery mildew– When this infection attacks your crops, the leaves and stems become distorted. This is caused by the development of grey-white powdery growth majorly on leaves and stems. Wilting may eventually occur.
Pests affecting tree tomatoes
The main pests that may attack your tree tomato include the whiteflies, nematodes, and aphids. Generally, tree tomatoes are pest resistant.
- Whiteflies– These are white-winged insects that suck the sap of your plant. They attack the leaves. The result is downward curling, yellowing and finally the leaves dry.
- Nematodes– They are microscopic parasites found in the soil. When this parasite infects your tree, you will notice swollen and distorted roots that bear knots. As a result, your plants wilts and eventually it may die
- Aphids– These are sap-sucking insects that pierce the lower surface of leaves. They mostly attack tender shoots. If they attack, you will notice curls and twists on the leaves of your plant. Aphids excrete honeydew that forms a sooty mold that affects photosynthesis.
If you want to effectively control weed in your farm, you need to till 2 to 3 months before planting season. This enables crop residue and other organic matter in the soil to decompose. Spraying your land with effective herbicides kills all types of weeds.
Intercropping tree tomatoes
If you want to diversify agribusiness, you can intercrop your tree tomatoes with beans and other vegetables. Grafted tree tomato farming in Kenya is a commercial venture And has a ready market.
Harvest and Post-Harvest
Your tree tomato tree bears fruits after 1.5 to 2 years. In favorable conditions, they grow very quickly and take a lesser span of time. Your fruit grown in Kenya is ready for harvest when they develop red or yellow color.
Harvest your fruits by pulling them from shrubs with a snapping motion. This ensures that the stalk remains attached. Unless you prune your tomato tree, they do not mature simultaneously.
You can refrigerate you tree tomatoes for up to 10 weeks. High temperatures can cause the skin to discolor.