FOOD: Tree tomatoes, healthy and delicious.

Tree Tomatos
Tree Tomatos

Have you ever seen tree tomatoes? They look like tomatoes that grow on a tree. Tree tomato, or tomate de árbol in Spanish, is an egg-shaped fruit, with pointy ends. The colour of the fruit varies from light orange to dark red and the taste is similar in all colours, some being slightly more acidic than others. Although both tomato and tree tomato are from the same family of nightshades, their taste and uses are quiet distinct from each other.

If you discovered tomate de árbol on your own without any guidance, chances are it didn’t make a very good first impression on you. The skin is very hard and bitter; the fruit is sour; and the seeds are hard and impossible to chew. But there are many merits in eating tomate de árbol and just as many ways to make it tasty. First, let`s quickly review some of the health benefits of this exotic fruit:

– Rich in antioxidants:

Tomate de árbol is rich in antioxidants, which means it can eliminate the action of free radicals and oxidative stress from the body and helps in preventing various chronic and degenerative diseases such as diabetes mellitus, immune diseases, heart disease, and cancer. Also, consuming antioxidants helps to slow down the process of aging.1,2

– Rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals:

Tomate de árbol is an excellent source of provitamin A (carotene), and a good source of vitamins C, B6, and E, as well as iron and calcium.1 This high content of minerals and vitamins makes tomate de árbol a great dietary supplement for skin health, immune health, bone health as well as treating and preventing anemia. Also, the high fiber content helps with digestive health, blood sugar regulation, and has a cholesterol lowering effect.2

– Useful in preventing and treating obesity:

Having a high content of fiber and a very low amount of carbohydrates, tomate de árbol is an excellent fruit for weight loss. On average, each fruit contains less than 40 calories.2 In a study, it was found that regular consumption of tomate de árbol can help with weight loss and reducing the amount of weight gain while on a high fat diet. Also, tomate de árbol reduces the oxidative stress and inflammation caused by obesity.3 So, next time you are about to order an empanada or another greasy food, ask for a tomate de árbol juice to minimize the negative effects of the deep-fried food.

– Metal chelation ability:

Heavy metals, such as mercury and arsenic, are the causes of many degenerative diseases and ailments. According to a study, tomate de árbol has a high chelating activity, and it may be useful in detoxifying the body from heavy metals.1

– Protective for prostate health:

Similar to tomato, tomate de árbol is enriched with a molecule called lycopene.1 Lycopene functions as an antioxidant and it has been shown to be useful in preventing and treating prostate cancer.4 Lycopene is one of the best dietary allies for virtually all men around the globe!

Now, let`s explore ways of consuming tomate de árbol:

Tomate de árbol can be eaten fresh, in a juice or a milkshake, in a salad, cooked in stews or sauces, and in a jam. This fruit is naturally acidic with bitter, inedible skin and hard, yet edible seeds.

Crushed tomatos
Crushed tomatos

Peel the skin:

The skin is hard and has an unpleasant, bitter taste. No matter how you want to consume tomate de árbol, you`ll need to peel the skin. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Cut the fresh fruit in half and scoop out the pulp. This is an easier, faster way, but you will lose some of the pulp in the process.

  2. Place the fruits in hot, boiled water for 5 minutes. Afterwards, the skin can be removed easily.

Eating it fresh:

You can eat the fruit fresh, just by itself, or as a tomato substitute in salads. The seeds are hard and low in nutrients but they are still edible.

Tree Tomato Liquados
Tree Tomato Liquados

To make tomate de árbol juice or milkshake:

  1. Remove the peel as described above.

  2. Place the pulp in a blender with some water and blend it. The juice will be acidic in taste. If you like it sweet, add stevia or sugar to taste.

  3. Strain the blended juice to remove the seeds. The seeds of tomate de árbol are hard and low in nutritional value.1 It is best to remove them from your juice. Since the juice produces a foam, it may help to use a spoon to press down the juice while straining.

In Barranquilla, the juice is made either in water or milk. So you can choose which one you prefer.

There are several cooked recipes with tomate de árbol which we will explore in a future article. Meanwhile, if you have a favourite recipe, let us know!

Be Happy & Healthy,

Dr. Rasa Nikanjam, ND, BSc.

References:

  1. Mandal P, Ghosal M, Antioxidant activities of different parts of tree tomato fruit, International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Review and Research, 13(2), 2012, 39-47

  2. Tree tomato (Cyphomandrabetacea), Puvec Fact Sheet No 6, Centre for Underutilised Crops, www.pavuc.soton.ac.uk

  3. Kadir NAAA, Rahmat A, Jaafar HZE, Protective Effects of Tamarillo (Cyphomandra betacea) Extract against High Fat Diet Induced Obesity in Sprague-Dawley Rats, Journal of Obesity, V 2015, Article ID 846041, http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/846041

  4. Gaby A R. Nutritional Medicine, 2011. 224 Fritz Pelberg Publishing Concord, NH

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