A favourite ingredient for local dishes, the GI-tagged tomato is known for its unique shape and tangy-tarty taste
Small, oval-shaped and incredibly tasty, the Naga Tree Tomato - which is locally called Si Binyano or Khwüdi - is abundantly grown in the kitchen gardens and small orchards of the northeastern state’s hilly terrains. In a bid to retain the purity of the species, local inhabitants procure the seedlings only from the mature plants. Counted among the region’s most valued exotic agricultural products, the Naga Tree Tomato has also been granted the Geographical Indication tag.
Popularly known as Tamarillo outside India, this species traces its origin to the Andes of Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. Apart from Nagaland, this subtropical tree that grows to a height of about 5 metres is found in Manipur, Darjeeling and Sikkim. Its flowers are pinkish white in colour, while the leaves are large and have a pungent smell. It’s an all-season tree that bears fruits almost throughout the year. The colour of these tomatoes varies between yellow, orange, red and purple. The red ones are said to be sour, while the yellow and orange ones come with a rather sweet taste. Under normal temperatures, the tomatoes can be stored for a long time.
Maybe not well documented, but the indigenous people of the state have been traditionally eating this variety of tomato for longer than we think. The tarty-tangy Khwüdi is a favourite ingredient for soups and salads in the districts of Mon, Kohima, Phek, Wokha, Zunheboto, Kiphire and Tuensang. Not to forget, it goes very well with axone and is a primary ingredient for the smoked pork recipe as well. Many say that the taste of the Naga Tree Tomato bears resemblance to that of kiwi and passion fruit. Other dishes aside, the Naga Tree Tomato chutney is the most popular recipe that uses this tomato. The ingredients required to make this chutney include Raja Mirchi (Nagaland’s famous King Chilli), chopped onion, fresh coriander, mustard oil, salt and tree tomato.
In a bid to further boost the popularity of Naga Tree Tomato and promote its use in other parts of the country, workshops are being held in the state from time to time. These sessions are primarily carried out to create awareness among Naga farmers about the importance of the GI registration and legal rights adhering to it. Such initiatives are expected to go a long way in maintaining the authenticity of this special agricultural produce. Thanks to the region’s fertile soil and favourable climate, Nagaland is home to a slew of unique fruits and vegetables. Some of these are world-renowned, while many others are yet to be explored or identified on the global culinary map. One such vegetable is the elusive ‘Mokokchung cucumber’. Efforts are being made to get this local ‘sweet crop’ on the list of GI tags in India. According to news reports, when cultivated outside Mokokchung, the cucumber varies its form and taste, although the size remains the same.
In terms of nutritional value, every 100 grams of Tamarillo is said to be rich in Vitamin A, C and E, apart from carbohydrates, protein, fibre, iron, potassium and calcium. It helps regulate blood pressure, boosts metabolism and is good for your heart and eye health. In other countries, this tomato is also included in sandwiches, sauces, pies, salsa, smoothies, muffins, cakes and even ice cream.