Garden Lifestyle

Add some Zest to your Garden

Tomatillos, a distant cousin to the tomato, are ready to enjoy when the fruits are bright green, firm, and tart.

Tomatillos are a member of the nightshade family that add a kick to many dishes.
Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

It was at the end of last summer when I decided I’d plant tomatillos in my garden this year. I was buying way too many at the farmer’s market and decided it was time to grow my own.

Tomatilllo (toh-mah-TEE-yoh) may look a little like its distant cousin the tomato, but these relatives are miles apart in taste and tomatillos will never ripen to a bright red. The firm green fruits have a sweet, but lively lemon-apple-herb taste that’s essential to classic Mexican and Southwestern cooking.

I settled on tomatillo ‘Toma Verde’ because they’re supposed to be easy to grow and prolific. These plants produce small-size fruit, but there are other varieties that grow bigger fruits or those that ripen to a deep purple. I started the seeds along with the tomato seeds this spring and transplanted two little plants to my container garden once the weather warmed earlier this month.

I’m surprised at how quickly they’ve grown. The plants seem to dwarf the tomato plants I potted at the same time. Large yellow flowers with brown eyes have already formed tiny green fruits.

The tomatillos will be ready to harvest when they’re bright green and their papery husks turn a light brown. To use in a variety of dishes, the husks are peeled away.

I plan to use some of the tomatillos raw to add a kick to guacamole. I’d also like to chop some and top a bowl of chilled gazpacho with them. If I get an especially good crop, I’ll roast some, grill some, and simmer the rest into a zippy chile verde sauce.

Anyone with a good recipe using tomatillos? Please share it here.

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