Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tamarillo Cocktails


A couple of years ago, being interested in food gardens and pretty things, I planted a tamarillo. It’s an attractive small tree with enormous heart-shaped leaves, and grows quickly; within a year the tree cast a lovely dappled shade into our west-facing study. Although most tamarillos produce red fruit, we have an orange variety, and during autumn the fruit hang in pendulous clusters, swaying gently in the breeze.

Underneath the tamarillo tree, we planted gooseberries. Their leaf shape is a smaller echo of the tamarillo leaf, and the gorgeous golden fruit, tucked into paper lanterns, complement the colours of the tamarillo. Surrounding them is a sea of deep purple salvia; thus we have a regal assortment of jewel colours just outside our study window. This is one part of the garden that gives me enormous satisfaction: it's absolutely lovely to look at.

Just this week, however, it occurred to me that I should actually EAT the tamarillos. The usual way is to make chutney, but I'm not a big fan of any form of chutney, so that was off the cards. We've eaten some raw, cut open and scooped out with a teaspoon; and while they have an interestingly and complex flavour, they really are quite astringent. There is a limit to how much astringent fruit I will eat in a day.

With several hundred tamarillos on the tree, what was I to do? On reflection, I realised that, while I don't like to chomp on mountains of astringent fruit, I do like such drinks. I'm very fond of cranberry or grapefruit juice; I love a good sweet-tart flavour. So, having no juicer, I whizzed the tamarillo pulp in the food processor and then strained it into a glass.

Hey presto! a deliciously refreshing gloriously pretty autumnal drink. It tasted like a fruit cocktail, perhaps a tomato-passionfruit-guava combo. I drank it straight, and loved it. My kids found it a bit tart, so for them I mixed tamarillo with local apple juice, and that was sweet enough for them.

The next day, I combined tamarillo juice with soda water (made with my trusty soda stream). The fizz reacted with the pulp to form a thick foam, the texture reminiscent of an ice cream spider – lovely!

It all went to my head. Giddy with success, and reflecting that it had been so long since we'd made cocktails that I couldn't immediately remember where I'd put the martini glasses, I made drinkies. I like a cosmopolitan, with its cranberry citrus flavour. Like cranberries, tamarillos are clean and tart, so I substituted tamarillo for the cranberry juice and shook, shook, shook. The result was lively and not too sweet. Standing round our kitchen bench in old jeans, thick jumpers and fluffy boots, the kids' dishes piled up and our dinner waiting on the stove, my partner and I clinked glasses and pretended, just for a little while, that we were in elegant clothes somewhere far above the city, gazing down at a sea of twinkling lights and making glittering conversation. It was a very pleasant way to mark the end of the working week and solve the problems of the world; next time I may even dress up for the occasion!

Tamarillo Cosmopolitan

- 150ml fresh tamarillo juice
- 45ml vodka
- 30ml Cointreau
- juice of half a lime

Place all ingredients into a shaker and fill with ice. Shake for 30 seconds. Strain into a martini glass, if you have one, and enjoy!

(Local: tamarillo, lime. Not local: vodka, cointreau.)



  1. That cocktail sounds positively divine, as does the view out of your study.

  2. the view is great as long as you ignore the mess to the left and right of it! just one nice patch, about 3 metres wide... just yesterday I properly fenced the chickens in, so now I have no excuse not to tackle the rest of the garden. sigh.