TAMCO – New Zealand’s Tamarillo Cooperative

TAMCO was founded in May 2014 and is New Zealand’s only tamarillo cooperative, representing over 10 orchardists who grow tamarillos commercially. TAMCO is managed by Robin Nitschke who was himself a tamarillo grower.

Robin has been in and around agriculture for quite some time, starting with arable farming in the Rangitiki, then moving into pig farming. After a stint with a tourism venture, Robin and his wife Heather have moved back to orcharding in Northland and started TAMCO in 2014. They sold their orchard in early 2020, but Robin continues to manage TAMCO.

The TAMCO growers’ passion for tamarillos is simply illustrated by the fact that they can grow them successfully, as the fruit is notoriously difficult to grow. To achieve success three things are required: firstly, a frost-free climate; secondly, an environment which is sheltered and free from wind; and thirdly, free draining soil.

Within the co-op, the growers use modern pest management techniques, alongside traditional methods, to produce tamarillos that taste great, are highly nutritious and free of unwanted residues. The devastating psyllid virus nearly ruined the commercial crop in New Zealand back in 2008 but after intense monitoring and caring of the trees, control and good management, the strength of the industry is returning. As a result, the tamarillo fruit is healthy again and monitoring continues to protect it. Because of the small scale of the industry, fruit is still handpicked, delivering exceptional quality and flavour.

Once the tamarillos are picked and sorted at the orchard and shipped south, secondary processing begins. It can be challenging with the tamarillos ‘tumbled’ to promote the skin to crack so they can be easily peeled to access the flesh for preserving. There is a fine balance to ensure enough of the skin and bitter pith is adequately removed to ensure the chutney isn’t tainted with unnecessary bitterness.

For the Anathoth Farm Tamarillo & Plum Chutney, tamarillo is paired with New Zealand plum and the depth of flavour and sweetness is rounded out by the addition of locally grown apple and dates, while sauteed onions offer a subtle savoury note. We choose to use just enough brown and raw sugar to enhance the flavour of the chutney, while adding a slight caramel note to bring out the full flavour of the fruit and balance the sharpness of vinegar. All Anathoth Farm chutneys are thickened with cornflour, a natural thickening agent often used in the home kitchen.

Tamarillo is not so readily available on the fresh market, so this makes the Anathoth Farm Tamarillo & Plum Chutney all the more in demand for those who love this traditional Kiwi backyard fruit.

Another secret tip from Robin is to take fresh tamarillo and add it chopped up to a simple lettuce salad to add a real zing and bite. But of course, Tamarillo and Apple Crumble is a heart-warming favourite. Enjoy!