Tomatillos – Growing and Cooking

Green and Yellow Tomatillos

Green and Yellow Tomatillos

This has been a good year for tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa). Our three plants have produced way more than we need for our few batches of salsa. Tomatillos are also not that easy to give away because a lot of people don’t know what they are, much less what to do with them.

Tomatillo Vines

Tomatillo Vines

They grow like a tomato but the fruit has a loose, papery husk called a calyx that forms first.  The fruit swells inside the husk and is ready to harvest about the time it breaks through the husk or just before. We try to pick when the fruit has filled out to the edges of the husk.

Tomatillos Are Related to Chinese Lanterns

Tomatillos Are Related to Chinese Lanterns

We have grown them off and on for several years and I think I’ve finally got the hang of when to harvest while they’re still green. They turn yellow and sweeter as they ripen and the husks split open, but the green ones have the tarter flavor that is best for Mexican flavored salsa.

There are lots of recipes for tomatillo salsa. Here’s a salsa recipe that Geoff posted a couple of years ago using tomatoes. You can easily substitute tomatillos for the tomatoes and cilantro for the papalo.

I also like this tomatillo salsa verde recipe which I found on allrecipes.com.

Chinese Lanterns and Tomatillos

Chinese Lanterns and Tomatillos

The tomatillos look very similar to Chinese Lanterns (physalis alkekengi) as you can see in the picture above. They are the same genus but a different species. The Chinese Lanterns are an inedible perennial and grow more like a mint plant spreading from the root. Aren’t plants amazing?

Chinese Lanterns

Chinese Lanterns

 

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2 Responses to “Tomatillos – Growing and Cooking”

  1. Denise Cowie says:

    How do you use tomatillos if you allow them to ripen and sweeten? Would you use them in tomato recipes?
    Love the vase of Chinese Lanterns, by the way — very beautiful.

  2. Judy says:

    Denise,

    Since the yellow tomatillos are sweeter they’re more suitable for jams. You can still use them for salsas if you don’t mind the sweetness – just perk the sauce up with lime juice. While I don’t consider tomatillos a substitute for tomatoes they can be added to a pot of chili. They mellow out the spicy flavor a bit.

    Judy