Twaha Kakooza cannot have a meal without home-made juice. He accompanies every meal with a glass of tamarillo tomato mixed with pawpaw. This, he says, is the secret to his good health.
Today, it is accurate to describe him as wealthy. However, it is not the material possessions that will endear one to this 49-year-old wonder farmer.
Kakooza is also a professional herbalist, who has invested heavily in research to get to the top.
He attended a top herbal medicine training institute in South Africa and has done research in farming and medicinal plants in Brazil, Italy, and China.
In fact, most plants on his farm are a rare commodity locally as he imported them.
Kakooza has always grown a variety of fruits in his backyard. “I am aware of the nutritional values of tamarillo tomato. Tamarillo tomatoes are low in calories and rich in fibre which helps in digestion.”
He reveals that due to old age, he developed constipation whenever he ate matooke or sweet potatoes.
However, this problem stopped when he started taking tamarillo tomatoes every day.
Most people ignore this plant even when they are capable of growing some in their homes. Growing fruits for home consumption however small your garden is, could help you save money and be a source of a good diet.
While it takes some time for the plants to begin bearing fruit, you will be rewarded with a bountiful supply in the long run.
The development of dwarf and semi-dwarf trees will make it possible for anyone with an average-sized yard to enjoy planting their own fruit trees.
He says: “It is advisable to plant a variety of fruits that ripen at different times. In so doing, you have a supply of fruit all year round.”
How to get started
Many homeowners have limited space for gardening. To plan your gardening space, consider the various options of close-tree planting in your backyard. For instance, instead of having one plant in a hole, consider having two to four fruit plants in the same hole.
Decide on what type of fruit tree you want to grow and for better yields consider cross-pollinating different fruits.
Plant two or more fruit trees close to each other, cross-pollination will ensure a genetic variety of fruits and leads to new fruit varieties.
Plant seedlings 12ft to 16ft apart to allow enough space for the matured drooping and bushy branches, once you have decided on the fruit you want to plant, get seeds and plant them in a nursery.
Set up a nursery bed about six inches deep. Site the bed where the plants will be able to get the morning sun but where they will be protected from the afternoon sun.
When the plants mature and need to be transplanted, do the transplanting in the evening away from the scorching sun. As you wait for your fruit tree to mature, maintain a layer of mulch around the base of the tree, fertilise the area with any lawn fertiliser and protect its tender, emerging branches from weeds and animals.
Once your tree begins to bear fruit, occasionally spray and prune out some branches, as fruits that grow closely in clusters will not reach a good size.
Why production is still low
Tamarillo can be grown in many areas that grow orchard and pomegranate in Uganda.
Kakooza says lack of awareness on the uses of tamarillo tomatoes is among the reasons why most Ugandans do not go into its production.
He adds: “Producing tamarillo is left to few farmers because it takes usually 25 weeks following fruit set.
Newly planted trees may take up to two years for fruit production to occur, yet some farmers prefer crops that take a shorter period,” he explains.
How to cultivate it
Tamarillo tomato is grown both under rain-fed and irrigated conditions.
Transplanting is done when the seedlings are between 60 to 70 days old or when the seedling is 15 to 20cm long.
Planting holes should be dug 30 to 45cm deep with a diameter of 60cm to accommodate a sufficient volume of manure
According to Kakooza, after selecting a suitable cultivation site, beds of convenient length and width are prepared, based on the topography of the land.
He says the soils for this plant should be rich, with plenty of organic matter. Organic matter or fertilisers can be got from rotting matter.
“Though tamarillo is suited for a number of soil types, loam and sandy loam soils are preferable. Flatland, with little or no slope, is recommended. It can be manually done, using a spade or a hoe.
“The plant looks strange because its skin is not eaten. The skin is tough and bitter but the flesh is sweet and juicy. The flesh holds soft black seeds nested in a red gel, which is sweet,” he says.
The fruit has an upright trunk with lateral branches that bear pink-white fragrant flowers, shallow roots and yields long fruits with dark longitudinal stripes.
“Because of such roots, the crop should be planted in deep holes to protect them from winds. They also require moderate well-distributed rainfall, the temperature of between 15 to 20 degrees Celsius, and a soil pH of five to 8.5.”
According to Kakooza organic manure used should be fully decomposed to ensure that it does not become a source of diseases and to ensure that maximum nutrients are obtained especially when farmyard manure is used.
Aisha Nabbosa, a manager at Shatwa Mixed Farm in Kayunga, says for good crop yield and maximum farmer economic return, it is advisable to mulch the tamarillo plot after planting.
Fertilise the plot using a combination of inorganic fertilisers, such as poultry and cow dung.
Tree tomato tamarillo fruit is also best eaten with both the skin and seeds removed. They can then be added to salsa or made into jams and jelly.