Tomatillos ( Tomato Tree)

ifraser25(z11 Brazil)April 16, 2010

I have just bought my first tomatillo plant. I had a quick browse on Flickr to see what it would be like eventually and saw a lot of pics that looked more like a very big potato plant than a tree. Is it really a tree? How tall does it get? When can I expect it to fruit? Anything you want to tell me basically....

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wordwiz

In my grow room, way too big for a seedling! I've never had a plant (except hibiscus) that has such long legs!

I think they usually get 3-4 feet tall in a garden.

Mike

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 5:07PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Haven't grown them recently but as I recall the typical size was about the same as an indeterminate tomato - say 6 feet tall. They definitely need a good size container if container grown and a good support system.

Also you might want to pick up another plant since it takes more than one of most all tomatillo varieties to pollinate and get fruit. They don't self-pollinate at all well as tomatoes do. Search 'tomatillo' over on the growing Tomatoes forum for lots of discussions on them.

Dave

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 6:39PM
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mrswaz(Z5A NE WI)

Tomatillos are one of the prettiest plants to grow! Yes, you do need two of them in order for them to pollinate, but if a neighbor has a plant or two, you might be okay.

Mine grew to about 6 feet high here in zone 4B, but they didn't sprawl like a tomato. I needed to support the innermost stems with bamboo canes, but they grew fairly well by themselves.

The production off just two plants is fantastic. After I'd harvested most of the fruit, I noticed that my plants were starting to set a second run of blossoms just as we got frost. I suspect in warmer climates one could get a second crop off of one sowing.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 10:04AM
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alabamanicole(7b)

They are not a tree and not even a woody shrub, but their stems are stronger than tomatoes. They aren't related to tomatoes at all; in fact are closer to potatoes. They can take brutal heat and humidity, and were quite productive even in a year of extreme drought and left mostly unwatered. I had zero pest or disease problems with them, but they are not native here nor commonly planted.

Mine grew about 5 tall and at least that wide. Instead of growing up and then out, they start growing out right away, like an upside down pyramid. They need lots of horizontal space, but dontt sprawl on the ground like an unsupported tomato. They are very attractive plants. They will appreciate some support, but it doesn't seem strictly necessary. Use something like welded wire fencing to build a cage that is about 24" in diameter.

Pick them when the husks dry and split. Rinse the fruits very well, as they have a lot of saponin on their skins.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 11:53AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

I mostly agree agree with alabamanicole, especially with the suggestion of giving tomatillos some support. I tie them up to sturdy wooden stakes.

I take exception to the statement "aren't related to tomatoes at all". Tomatillos are members of the solanacae family, along with tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and others. Tomatillos have obvious physical similarities to tomatoes in their flowers, fruit and seeds. Mexicans call them tomates verde (green tomatoes) and use them to make salsa verde (green sauce).

Tomatillos are very productive. For a long time it may seem like they aren't producing fruit. Then, near the end of the season, they suddenly produce a flush of fruit.

Jim

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 1:10PM
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calliope(6)

I have started some indoors in my greenhouse. They're only a foot tall now, and some of them already have husked fruit on them. Yes, you do not need a lot of plants. They produce heavily. My daughter planted a whole row of them last summer in her garden to make green salsas. Good lordy, we drowned in tomatillos.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 9:55PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

Is everyone here talking about the same plant?

The tree tomato is Cyphomandra betacea Sendt and is said to get about 15 ft tall, and self-pollinated. None of the uses at the following site (Purdue U.) indicate it's used for salsa.
http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/tree_tomato.html#Description

The plant that I know as tomatillo is Physalis philadelphica, the husk tomato or ground cherry. It has a papery husk and is self-incompatible (pollination-wise), and is 3 or 4 ft high and wide. Used for green sauces.

Or am I just confusing myself?

Sue

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 11:28PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

That's a good question, Sue.

It looks like most of us are talking about tomatillo, not Cyphomandra betacea, which is called Tamarillo or tree tomato (not tomato tree). It's easy to see how confusion could arise.

Jim

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 1:00AM
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greenthumbsj

BTW, I am growing a few Tree tomato. They are extremely vulnerable to frost and also slugs. I have one that I brought indoor and it survived and is going to set flowers soon. its 2 years old. I use the ripe fruit that is deep purple/burgundy color to make salsa-like dip with some cilantro or mint and lemon juice. it has a different kind of tarty taste that i like. it looks to me that tomato/tree tomato/tomato tree all can be used in that fashion.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 2:34AM
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cyrus_gardner(8)

I want to grow just ONE tomatillo plant. HD has them on the rack.
But the thing I dont understand is WHY do you need more than one plant
for pollination. If they do not have separate male and female flowers
and both sexes exist in each flower, why would you have to have two + plants??
As I Understan ALL solaneous/nightshade plants are self-pollinators.
Am I wrong ? Correct me please.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 7:46AM
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alabamanicole(7b)

Even though the flowers are perfect, tomatillos are highly self-incompatible. Plants generally need to cross with another plant for fruit set, although you may get a few fruits on a single plant.

Just a clarification, I grew Physalis ixocarpa, not Physalis philadelphica. (Or at least that's what the original seed pack said.) From what I understand the two species are near identical.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 9:10AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Agree. Shape of the blooms makes self-pollination difficult. You might get a few from insect work but for good wind pollination you need 2 plants next to each other.

Dave

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 10:25AM
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denninmi(8a)

Belgianpup wrote: Is everyone here talking about the same plant?
The tree tomato is Cyphomandra betacea Sendt and is said to get about 15 ft tall, and self-pollinated. None of the uses at the following site (Purdue U.) indicate it's used for salsa."

I'm pretty sure the OP was referring to Cypo. bet. (Tamarillo) but probably just confused the two names.

I've got a couple of them growing -- 2 years old now. I hope this year they might actually fruit. Last summer was just SO extraordinarily cold, the plants grew but slowly, no sign of any buds. They look really good now, but need bigger pots this year.

However, I do think, actually, this fruit would be quite tasty in a fresh salsa, anyway, with some onion, cilantro, lime juice, whatever. I'll have to grab a couple at the grocery store and experiment. Cinquo di Mayo is coming anyway.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 11:22AM
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alabamanicole(7b)

denninmi, I thought tamarillo was a subtropical tree. Are you container growing them?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 12:08PM
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neohippie(8b)

"They aren't related to tomatoes at all; in fact are closer to potatoes."

Tomatoes are Solanum lycopersicon, potatoes are Solanum tuberosum, Tamarillos are Solanum betaceum and Tomatillos are Physalis ixocarpa.

So tomatoes and potatoes (and tree tomatoes aka tamarillos) are all in the same genus and therefore closely related. Tomatillos are in a different genus, but the same family (Solanaceae aka the nightshade family), so they're related but not as closely. If tomatoes and potatoes are sibling species, tomatillos are first cousins.

Looks like some "lumpers" got a hold of the nighshade family and put a lot more species in Solanum than there used to be (tomatoes used to have their own genus, Lycopersicon), but tomatillos remain distinct.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 12:09PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

It is widely believed that tomatillos are self infertile or, to use another term, self incompatible. This is known to be true with certain fruit trees which need a tree of a different variety as a pollenizer. There is doubt about this regarding tomatillos, however. In the thread linked below, several posters say they have seen fruit production on a lone tomatillo plant.

If it is true that tomatillos are self infertile, it is most likely a matter of genetics, not of flower structure. Tomatillos have a flower structure very similar to tomatoes. Tomatoes self pollinate when the flower is shaken by wind or insects (buzz pollination). Some tomatoes have a flower structure which allows pollen to be transferred by insects but most do not.

Tomatoes are not wind pollenated. If they were, a solitary plant could pollenate itself as corn does, assuming the plant was not self infertile.

I'm not sure how much of the tomato information applies to tomatillos. I can only speculate on that. I do believe that a single tomatillo plant can bear fruit based on the experience cited by posters in the linked thread.

Jim

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomatillo Pollination

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 12:52PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

"Tomatoes are not wind pollenated."

I meant to say tomatillos are not wind pollinated.

Jim

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 12:55PM
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denninmi(8a)

Alabamanicole wrote: denninmi, I thought tamarillo was a subtropical tree. Are you container growing them?"

Yes. They can't take any frost, so go out for the summer and indoors in the winter.

They're actually really easy to start from seed -- I just planted the seeds out of a grocery store fruit, and got at least 50 seedlings to germinate within a week.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 1:42PM
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alabamanicole(7b)

Thanks, denninmi. There are so many tropicals and subtropicals I'd like to plant, there wouldn't be room for me inside during the winter, so I avoid it. Except my pomegranate tree.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 2:10PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Hi All

If we are talking about tamarillo also know as a tree tomato it is a small tree.

I am growing now the red variety that was planted last year and survive the winter freeze that we had.

Also have two new plants started this year and planted the yellow and red variety.

They are supposed to fruit in 2 years. The fruit does not taste or look like tomatoes or tomatillos. It can be used as a veggie, fresh like a fruit, dessert or make into a hot sauce with chili peppers substitute tomatoes.

Once you have a home grown tamarillo you will find out that when perfectly ripe it is delicious! the supermarket variety is picked under ripe.

I took a picture so you can see it, it is raining now.

Silvia

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 7:52PM
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cyrus_gardner(8)

After reading all the post here and the other thread, I have come to
the conclusion that having a sole plant is not the reason for not fruiting.
Some of those who did not get fruits said that their plant grew huge.
Maybe they over fertilized with nitrogen. Maybe one has to prune them to get fruits than foliage?
Maybe they need hot weather mybe the opposit? But in my mind the structuree
ofthe flower is not to blame. There should be plenty of pollens in each
flower to pollinate it with slight breeze.

Having said all that I will go ahead and plant JUST ONE. to see what will happen.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 10:12PM
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susancol(7 Atlanta)

The plant that I know as tomatillo is Physalis philadelphica, the husk tomato or ground cherry. It has a papery husk and is self-incompatible (pollination-wise), and is 3 or 4 ft high and wide. Used for green sauces.
-Sue

Just wanted a little clarification on Sue's statement above. She is correct, but what she said is a little misleading. The Tomatillo is Physalis philadelphica as Sue mentions, and although it is sometimes referred to as a ground cherry, the actual fruit that most call ground cherry or cape gooseberry is the Physalis peruviana. A close relative but not the same. :)

I agree that the op was probably intending to reference the Tamarillo, which I know nothing about. So I'll politely leave the rest to folks who know more.

Susan

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 9:21AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

cyrus,

Look at that Tomatillo Pollination thread again and notice the date of each post. The folks who talk about no fruit are posting in July and early August. At least one of those came back later to report an abundance of fruit.

Tomatillos put out a flush of fruit all at once late in the season. It's easy to think they aren't going to fruit earlier in the season. Also, they grow full sized empty husks before the fruit forms. So it's easy to be discouraged at that stage too, thinking you are getting husks but no fruit. The solution to both problems is simply patience.

Jim

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 9:49AM
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denninmi(8a)

whgille wrote: "They are supposed to fruit in 2 years. The fruit does not taste or look like tomatoes or tomatillos. It can be used as a veggie, fresh like a fruit, dessert or make into a hot sauce with chili peppers substitute tomatoes.

Once you have a home grown tamarillo you will find out that when perfectly ripe it is delicious! the supermarket variety is picked under ripe."

I've only ever had supermarket ones, of course, and I'm sure the difference between fresh, off the plant and under-ripened, shipped, stored, and chilled probably is night and day.

Even at that, the ones from the supermarket aren't bad. They definitely benefit from sitting in a warm place for 2 or 3 days with a couple of ripe pieces of other fruit.

I would be really hard pressed to describe their flavor. Sort of unique, I guess hints of tomato, papaya, etc., but mostly just their own.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 10:32AM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Denninmi

My first tamarillo was planted when I was a child and my aunt gave me a cutting, I had fruit the first year. Very easy to start this way.

One of my favorite ways is to juice it and flavor with a little bit of sugar, very refreshing!

If you had the red variety, the yellow one is less acidic. I like them both.

Silvia

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 2:12PM
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cyrus_gardner(8)

Thanks Jim.
It make sense what you've said; maybe tomatilloes, like some tomatoes
will stop productin in the dog days of summeer. Potatoes are the same;
they will not grow tubers. So again, it has nothing to do with the flower
structure or needing another company.

BTW, I just bought a very nice, healthy Tomatillo plant, about 15", with pencil thick stem,
with flowers about to bloom. It is raining now. I will plant it tomorrow.
I should be able to have some tomate verde in may.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 2:45PM
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toils-in-soils

Gosh do I love this site!!

I am brand new here. Dropped in to look for an answer regarding my home-started tomato transplant leaves looking less and less green over the past 2 weeks, and now I am finding these incredible discussions about tomatillo's! (I've started mine from seed just for fun). Never knew that they grew so tall or that I needed to plant more than one together. I was going to put them in containers (I live on a hill and have limited horizontal space).

All of you "posters" are so interesting - I can't think of anything that I would rather do on a rainy Saturday morning with my coffee than to visit with y'all.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 10:21AM
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