Tree tomatoes are known by many names – prunes de Japon, love fruits, tamarillo, and locally, ibinyomoro or itunda. Similarly there is a whole range of ways it can be consumed.
One can choose to consume the fruit by biting or cutting off its top, and sucking out the succulent inside, or as part of your fruit salad. However, most people are comfortable taking the blended juice.
Interestingly, many people who eat the fruit are ignorant of the fact that there is the juice as well.
Tree tomatoes are quite popular in Rwanda as opposed to regional neighbours, and truth be told, for someone who hails from Uganda, I first set eyes on the fruit while here.
The egg-shaped fruit grows to about 5-10 cm long, and its colors vary from red and purple, to orange and even yellow.
The flesh has a firm texture and contains more and larger seeds than a common tomato. The fruits are very high in vitamins and iron and protein, and low in calories, making it the perfect health drink for those who know it.
Fresh tree tomatoes are frequently blended together with water and sugar to make a juice – as is preferred by most people. The whole process will not last more than three minutes before your order eventually pops up from the blender.
On the few occasions that I have asked for a blend between ikinyomoro and passion juice, I have not regretted it. However, it is not as high on sugar as maracuja, in that occasionally I have had to ask the waitress for extra spoons of sugar.
In all, this is something I could easily use on a daily basis. That is if I could afford to fork out Rwf 2,000 just for an averagely-sized glass. With fruit blenders lately a must-have for even the lower-range establishments, the demand for tree tomato juice can only grow.
I have had a few disastrous outings involving this thing, in which I either had to settle for “room temperature juice”, which is no good, while another time in Musanze, my order took all of twenty minutes to materialise, and when it did, it was a punch with passion juice.
That said, some of my most memorable tree tomato treats have been at the Al-Mannu Fast Foods, in Nyamirambo; Afrika Bite Restaurant, in Kimihurura, and at Camellia Tea House. At Al-Mannu a glass goes for Rwf 1,500, while at the other two venues, you will have to part with an extra Rwf 500.