The first time you see this lovely fruit, you mistake it for a vegetable. You are in the Casco Viejo in Panama City at the huge grocery store - El Machetazo. There wedged in between the cucumbers and the eggplants is your new found obsession. The sign reads tomate de árbol (or tree tomato) so you assume its some sort of local tomato. (You find out much later, but not at this moment that the fruit is also known as tamarillo and cultivated in Panama, parts of South America and even Indonesia.) Later that night, in your pan of stewing peppers and onions, you dissect your egg shaped treasure and inhale the tropical aromas of guava and strawberries. You roughly dice and throw in the fleshy meat with the waxy skin (a huge blunder in hindsight!!) into your sauce. A couple more minutes to simmer, then you toss in the spaghetti and some olive oil. Salt and pepper.
Weeks later in Cartagena, Colombia over breakfast, an orange pink elixir is being poured into your glass. It's a familiar smell, but it's identity is illusive. You take a dainty sip. Is it guava? Strawberry? Maybe passionfruit? Cantaloupe? It's tangy almost like grapefruit. Before you realize it, you've gulped down the entire glass. You ask the young woman working at the hotel the name of the delicious drink. "Jugo de tomate de árbol," she smiles and minutes later she shows you the fruit. Ah, it all makes sense. An old friend you've misunderstood. You ask her how she has made the juice and she shows you. She scoops the fruit and adds imaginary sugar into an invisible blender. It all makes sense now...
Jugo de tomate de árbol / tree tomato juice
2 Tomate de árbol
2 C water
2 tablespoons sugar
Cut the fruit in half. Scoop out the pulp into a blender. The peel is bitter! Blend until the fruit is a fine paste. Add sugar. Taste. Add more sugar if you want it on the sweet side. Add water and blend for a couple seconds. You can also strain the juice for seeds. Serve and enjoy.
|also available in orange|