Mangawhai in the news

Artisans: Tree tomatoes - a savoury or sweet treat

Tamarillo jelly is great as a condiment with cheese and crackers.

Les and Liz Holsted were sick of their busy corporate jobs in the city and decided to buy a block of land up north to get out of the rat race. "It was the mid-life crisis thing really," says Liz. "We had dreams of going to Italy for six months and learning to make limoncello while our lemon trees grew at home. When we got real about it, we saw it was a huge operation and started to think about alternatives."

There were already a few tamarillo trees on the property where they run their Tara Lodge Bed and Breakfast in Mangawhai so Liz started playing around with some of her nana's old recipes. Turns out they were quite good and the idea of tamarillo-based products started to grow. A serendipitous meeting with a tamarillo grower in a local shop one day confirmed their direction and they started growing some more trees.

Liz kept experimenting with the fruit and came up with a lovely range of products branded Tara Lodge, including: a tamarillo vinegar, a tamarillo jelly, a tamarillo and mint jam and a tamarillo kasundi. We love the tamarillo vinegar splashed on a salad or cooked veges and the tamarillo jelly with a bit of blue cheese (quite sweet on its own but perfect combined with something more savoury).

The kasundi isn't overly spicy but had nice vinegary notes and with its Indian flavours would be great on the side of dahl and rice or even in a sandwich. The jam would be as good on toast as it would with lamb with its versatile tamarillo flavour. That is the beautiful thing about the often underrated tree tomato - it's as good savoury as it is sweet.

The Tamarillo Tang was made for red meat, especially game "People love it as it has quite a big, deep flavour," says Liz.

All the products are made by hand by Liz and her assistant. "I know it's a bit cliche but you can taste the love when someone makes it themselves and we'd rather stay small and boutiquey than get into a big production line situation. Our products are really simple. No chemicals or additives and all the fruit is spray free too."

Where to buy:

Fresh, Mangawhai Village; Kaiwaka Cheese Shop SH1, Kaiwaka; The Garden Gate, Town Centre, Waipu; The Village Butchery, Kitchener Rd, Milford, Auckland; or La Cigale market (with Cathedral Cove Macadamias).

By Alexia Santamaria for the NZ Herald March 25, 2012