Tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica) ~ Tomatillo Plant Care Guide
The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica) is a plant of the nightshade family, related to the cape gooseberry, bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. Tomatillos originated in Mexico, and are a staple of that country’s cuisine. Tomatillos are grown as annuals throughout the Western Hemisphere. Tomatillos are delicious when fried, boiled and steamed.
The tomatillo fruit is surrounded by an inedible, paper-like husk formed from the calyx. As the fruit matures, it fills the husk and can split it open by harvest. The husk turns brown, and the fruit can be several colors when ripe, including yellow, red, green, or even purple. Tomatillos are the key ingredient in fresh and cooked Mexican and Central-American green sauces. The freshness and greenness of the husk are quality criteria. Fruit should be firm and bright green, as the green color and tart flavor are the main culinary contributions of the fruit. Purple and red-ripening cultivars often have a slight sweetness, unlike the green- and yellow-ripening cultivars, and are therefore somewhat more suitable for fruit-like uses like jams and preserves. Like their close relatives cape gooseberries, tomatillos have a high pectin content. Another characteristic is they tend to have a varying degree of a sappy sticky coating, mostly when used on the green side out of the husk.
Tomatillo plants are highly self-incompatible, and two or more plants are needed for proper pollination. Thus, isolated tomatillo plants rarely set fruit. Research conducted by Kamla Kant Pandey in 1957 supports this fact. Ripe tomatillos will keep refrigerated for about two weeks. They will keep even longer if the husks are removed and the fruits are placed in sealed plastic bags stored in the refrigerator. They may also be frozen whole or sliced.
Growing tomatillos is very similar to growing tomatoes, as a cage or trellis is required for the vine to climb, they are started by the seed in warm soil, and they thrive in full, hot sun. Grow a tomatillo vine to use in cooking with helpful advice from a sustainable gardener in this free video on gardening.
Tomatillo: A Growing Guide
Learn how to grow these amazing husked vegetables—and how to make a tasty green salsa.