Overview and Description:
Tomatillos (Tom-a-TEE-yo) are related to tomatoes, but their appearance and flavor are markedly different. Tomatillos are round fruits that are covered in a papery husk. They look like hanging lanterns, while growing. As they mature, they completely fill out the husk and it splits open, reveling the plump little fruits inside.
Tomatillos are similar in appearance to cape gooseberries and ground cherries, but again, their flavors are not really comparable.
Tomatillos are much tarter than these fruits, which makes them great choices for cool dishes like salsa.
The conventional green tomatillo turns either apple-green or yellow, when fully ripe. The purple tomatillo, pictured here, starts off green and turns a dusky eggplant. I find the purple varieties a bit less sour than the green.
- Leaves: Heavily serrated obovate leaves.
- Flowers: Yellow with dark splotches at the base of each of the 5 petals.
Tomatillo, Husk Tomato
1 1/2 - 2 ft. (h) x 18 - 24 in. (w)
Days to Harvest:
The tomatillo fruits should start maturing in about 80 days. They do take awhile to start setting fruits, but the plants will remain productive until frost.
The husks will split, as the fruits fill out. You can harvest before splitting happens, but the fruits get sweeter, as they mature.
Tomatillo fruits have a sticky film on them, which washes off easily enough.
If you plan to store your tomatillos, keep them in their husks and refrigerate them. However they will only last a couple of weeks, so use them up fast.
Tomatillos are a traditional ingredient of Mexican salsas, especially green sauces like Salsa Verde. They are also excellent grilled just until charred and slightly softened or mixed into chili and stews.
- 'Cisineros' - Very large, green fruits.
- 'di Milpa' - Translates to "from the field". Small wild variety.
- 'Pineapple' - Small and fruity tasting.
- 'Purple' - Heirloom purple variety with large, sweet fruits.
- 'Toma Verde' - A traditional green variety.
'Verde Puebla' - Large, productive green variety.
The plants are only perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 10--11. Tomatillos are generally grown as annuals. They will reseed, if left on the ground. Don't be surprised to see plants popping up in the garden, the following year.
Soil: Add plenty of organic matter to the soil, before planting. Tomatillos prefer a somewhat neutral soil pH of around 6.5--7.0, but for the most part, they will grow anywhere there is heat, sunshine and regular water.
Planting:Tomatillo seedlings are not widely available, but the plants are very easy to start from seed. You can start seed outdoors, after all danger of frost, or indoors, about 4 weeks before your transplant date.
They germinate and grow quickly.
Tomatillos are very sensitive to cold temperatures. Wait until the ground has warmed and all danger of frost has passed, before transplanting outdoors.
This is very important - You will need at least 2 tomatillo plants, for pollination and fruit production. : Tomatillos are self-sterile, meaning the flowers of an individual plant cannot pollinate themselves.
The plants are bushy and about 2--3 ft. tall. They can get heavy with fruit and staking or caging is highly recommended. You can plant them fairly closely, but they are easier to harvest with at least 6 in. between plants.
Growing tomatillos is very much like growing tomatoes, but with less problems. Tomatillo plants don't seem to be plagued by all the leaf spotting diseases we expect with tomatoes and few insects show any interest in them.
Watering is about the only real maintenance, outside of harvesting. They don't like to be left in dry conditions for extended periods of time.
Pests & Problems:
Snails, slugs and beetles my munch on the foliage, but the fruits are rarely bothered by insects are disease.
Sources, outside of my garden: