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Flowers and fruits hang from the lateral branches. The pinkish flowers are normally self-pollinating, but can require an insect pollinator; unpollinated flowers drop prematurely.
The fruits are egg shaped, pointed at both ends, 4–10 cm long and 3–5 cm wide, smooth, thin-skinned, and long-stalked. The skin color may be yellow or orange to deep red or almost purple, sometimes with dark, longitudinal stripes. The flesh inside is yellowish, orange, deep red, or purple. It has a firm texture and numerous flat seeds. The most flavorful and juicy flesh lies toward the center of the fruit, becoming more bland toward the skin.
Horticultural Varieties. Although there is much variety in the fruits and many local preferences based on color, there are apparently at present few named cultivars. Growers normally select their own trees for seed selection.
In New Zealand, where the most extensive selection has taken place, two strains are cultivated: red and yellow. Oratia Red (or Oratia Round) was the first recognized cultivar. The red strain has a stronger, more acid flavor and is more widely grown. Yellow fruits have a milder flavor and are preferred for canning.
A dark-red strain (called “black”) was selected in New Zealand in about 1920 as a variation from the yellow and red types. It was propagated and reselected thereafter.
Daylength. Unknown; probably daylength-insensitive.
Rainfall. Cannot tolerate prolonged drought, nor waterlogged soils or standing water.
Altitude. Unrestricted. Grows at 1,100–2,300 m at the equator in the Andes; near sea level in New Zealand and other countries.
Low Temperature. This species is injured by frost. Short periods below −2°C kill all but the largest stems and branches.
High Temperature. In tropical lowlands, tamarillos grow poorly and seldom set fruit. (Fruit set seems to be affected strongly by night temperature.) The plant seems to do best in climates where daytime temperatures range between 16 and 22°C during the growing season.
Soil Type. Fertile, light, well-drained soil seems best.
Related Species. The genus Cyphomandra, native to South and Central America and the West Indies, contains about 40 species. Many