How tamarillo fruit trees have renewed my youth, fortunes
Moses Nyarango may be 81, but on new ideas, he is as fresh as a daisy. While fellow farmers are still complaining about maize and other grains, he is onto new things.
Since he retired, Nyarango has been growing tamarillo (tree tomatoes) on his quarter acre farm in Nyambaria village, Nyamira County. The vibrant mzee has planted 500 Tamarillo fruits and intends to increase more trees since he is the only farmer planting the same in his locality. From the look of things, business is not bad.
Magic of tamarillo
Tamarillo is closely related to other members of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, such as tomatoes and chili peppers. The fruits have a ready market because they have been proven a storehouse of various minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients that can deliver outstanding health benefits.
“This is a wonder fruit. It is great for healthy bones and other tissues. I eat them a lot that is why I have the energy of a young man. It also helps prevent immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular diseases and eye diseases. It also promotes good skin health,” Nyarango says.
The farmer got interested in Tamarillo fruit years ago after meeting a certain businesswoman who encouraged him to try the venture and that he has been harvesting around 200 Kilos per season.
“I sold my first harvest of 200 kilos at Sh200 earning Sh40,000. I have since harvested the fruits twice so far making some good money,” says Nyarango.
He sells his fruits to individuals who are mainly middle class keen on their health.
From the Sh54,000 he earned the previous season, he has invested in chicken rearing and plans to expand the fruit farming business.
Nyarango says for someone to plant the fruit, he has to prepare a two feet deep hole and that when mature a farmer can harvest fruits for up to five years.
For now, the major challenge is the high cost of pesticides.
Some of the major diseases of tamarillos include the tamarillo mosaic virus, powdery mildew, and sooty mould. The major pests are whitefly, aphids and green vegetable bug. One of the major pests of tamarillos is the aphid.
Lucky for him, he has cracked the market.
“At first getting a market was tricky because most people had no clue what I was selling. But after sensitising them one by one, I started getting some orders. I may not be a millionaire yet, but I am not complaining...,” says Nyarango.
Now that his children are all grown up and leading their lives, he spends most of his time tending to the Tamarillo trees.
Nyarango says the fruits are nutritious and keep away most illnesses.
For those interested, he has a few take homes.
“Planting and taking care of the Tamarillo fruit trees requires a lot of dedication for high yields and healthy crop,” says Nyarango.
The good side
The farmer says the goodness is that Tamarillo fruits do not require too much maintenance like other crops.
Michael Mekenye a crops expert in Kisii says the Tamarillo fruit grows between 1-3 metres high depending on the existing ecological conditions.
Other than eating the fruit raw, it can also be processed into juice and jam.
It thrives in well-draining soils and slightly in heavy, clay soils with medium rainfall.
“Tamarillo fruits requires medium rainfall of between 800-1000 mm, 500 -800mm above sea level,” says Mekenye.
He says the fruit which takes between 15-18 months to mature does well in places like Nyeri, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua, Nakuru and Kisii counties.
Mekenye says the crop requires spacing of between 2 and 1.5 metres but in high potential areas with high population density spacing can be reduced to between 1.2 metres and 1 metre.
It can be raised from seeds or by grafting.
“The crop requires planting using fertiliser for root development. After four months, top dressing fertiliser is applied. Fertiliser is important during flowering and harvesting to boost production,” says Mekenye.
He says manure application is done after two years for water holding capacity especially in poor soils.
Pruning is done to remove dry branches, excess leaves, extra flowers and suckers.
According to Mekenye the common pests to look out for are aphids, whitefly and American bollworms.
“Bacterial wilt is common in slightly hot and dry areas but is can be controlled using measures such as crop rotation and planting certified seeds,” says Mekenye. Harvesting is done when the fruits are solid red and firm.
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