Nagaland is a north-eastern Indian state rich in vegetation and famous for its organic farming. The unique traits of the fertile soil, sub-tropical climate and average annual rainfall ranging from 1800 mm – 2500 mm has aided the production of organic crops as well as traditional farming methodology.
Naga tree tomato according to locals has existed since time immemorial and is regarded as one of traditional food items of the Naga people. This organic indigenous fruit has been grown in the hilly regions since the 1930s and gained popularity during World War II. It grows in abundance in the district of Kohima, Wokha, Kiphire, Mon, Tuensang, Phek, and Zunheboto.
Naga tree tomatoes are locally known as Sei Bangenuo – the name is derived from the Tenyidie dialect that translates to tree tomato. The Naga tree tomato also known by the name of tamarillo is distinctly different from the classic tomato both with its egg-shape and its colouring that varies from yellow and orange to red and almost purplish. Dark stripes adorn some tamarillos as well however unripe tamarillos are green. The ripe tamarillo has a glossy skin and is velvety to touch when ready for consumption. The best quality tamarillo has a fragrant spicy aroma.
The distinctive Naga tree tomato flourishes in these climatic conditions especially in areas that receive between 600 mm – 4000 mm of rainfall a year. The tree tomato bears its first fruit three years after it is planted and will continue to do so for 12 years at least if not more if tended to carefully with the right amount of manure and grows to a height of 10 – 18 feet. An average tree produces about 20 kg of fruit a year!
The health benefits of the tree tomato are immense as it contains high levels of vitamin A, is imperative for boosting the eyesight, helps in improving skin health and supporting ideal red blood cell levels. The fruit’s high vitamin C content increases immunity, bone strength and heals lacerations. Tree tomatoes have high levels of anthocyanins, which protect the body from diabetes, symptoms of aging, certain cancers and neurological diseases. Tree tomatoes are also known to contain lycopene, a compound that wards off degenerative diseases, boosts the heart functioning and aids the skin’s ability to withstand UV radiation.
The sharp high acidic level and a rare sweetness of the tamarillo makes it undoubtedly one of the most exotic fruits of the state of Nagaland and was awarded the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2014-15.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)