Monday, September 15, 2014

Tomatillos for Twenty

Until now, I’ve never grown tomatillos and have seldom eaten them, yet I decided to buy and plant four varieties earlier this year in my community garden plot. (Click here for how to pronounce tomatillo.) I had no expectations other than hoping that they would grow and provide a few fruit. It’s a good thing I was enthusiastic with my initial purchase, because unbeknownst to me, two or more plants are needed for proper pollination.

My tomatillo experiment is wildly exceeding my initial low expectations. Currently, many are bursting their inedible, paper-like husks, a sign that they are ready to be picked, eaten fresh, or fried, boiled, roasted or steamed before being consumed. An unexpected advantage of tomatillos is that they store well: they will keep refrigerated for several weeks, longer if the husks are removed and they are stored in sealed plastic bags in the refrigerator (one source said up to 3 months). They can also be frozen whole or sliced.

As part of the nightshade family, tomatillos (Physolis ixocarpa and P. philadelphica) are a cousin to tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant. Native to Mexico and domesticated by the Aztecs around 800 BC, tomatillos are an important part of Mexican cuisine and the key ingredient in green sauces. They need full sun, well-drained moderately rich soil and plenty of water. Plant at the same time you set out tomatoes when all danger of frost is past and the soil is warm. The plants are sprawling, growing 3-4 feet tall and wide. I didn’t provide any support for them this year, but will use tomato cages when I plant them next year to minimize the growing space they require.

Many green salsa recipes using tomatillos can be found online. I made an easy refreshing cold soup using mine. Here’s how I did it:

•    Roast/char the tomatillos under the broiler
•    Put them in the food processor with fresh tomatoes from the garden (about a 1:1 mixture), pulsing until little pulp remains
•    Add a little cumin, salt and a wee bit of sugar to taste
•    Serve cold or at room temperature

1 comment:

  1. Surprisingly they are actually pretty good just boiled, a little salt and pepper and little butter.