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People often ask " Is a tomatillo a tomato or a pepper?" as they don't really undestand it. Some people actually think tomatillos might be baby tomatoes. While it is part of the nightshade family, it is basically the Mexican ground cherry.
Most nightshade vegetables are part of the Capscium and Solanum plant families and examples include the tomato, tomatillo, eggplant, potato (excluding the sweet potato), pepper (including hot and sweet varieties, as well as spices like paprika, chili powder, cayenne, and Tabasco), pimento, and goji berry.
Gardening Tips for Tomatillos That Actually Work!
Tomatillos, sometimes called husk tomatoes, are a key ingredient in authentic Mexican cuisine, which contributes to its bold flavors. Unlike the tomato, tomatillos (Physalis spp.) are an easy-growing crop.
There are several genuses to choose from, with P. ixocarpa being the traditional tomatillo that many are acquainted with. The fruit sits inside a husk-like shell, which is removed to reveal the green tomato-like fruit that has a tart flavor.
Unlike tomatoes, tomatillos can tolerate somewhat cooler temperatures, although they do prefer warmer weather (like tomatoes).
One cup of chopped tomatillos has just 42 calories and is packed with vitamin C and vitamin K. Plus, tomatillos contain lutein and zeaxanthin—carotenoids that may boost eye health.
Add in the fact that they have a good amount of dietary fiber, you really can't lose with tomatillos!
While some people are afraid to eat them, tomatillo fruit is safe! There are parts of the plant that are poisonous, including the leaves, husk, and stem...but the fruit inside the paper husk is the real treasure.
Basic Tomatillo Facts
Germination is usually just 1 to 2 weeks, but seed germination to mature fruit usually takes 75 to 100 days for most varieties.
Tomatillos can be found much of the year, but their main season generally ranges from early summer through fall.
Tomatillos prefer warm soil (70-80℉) and are frost and cold-sensitive. Use a soil thermometer to check soil temperature before planting.
A healthy tomatillo plant can yield 10 to 15 pounds of fruit and will produce well into the chilly fall weather. They are a fairly large bush so make sure to plan for plenty of room for them to spread out.
You can eat them raw but they can be a little acidic and sharp-tasting. When cooked, their flavor tends to mellow, letting their sweeter side shine. They are a Mexican staple in dips and salsas but can be chopped and added to a salad just as easily.
How to grow tomatillos
The plants will thrive in Zones 3 and warmer and will need about 60 to 80 days (depending upon the temperatures) to mature. Choose an area of the garden where the plants can get full sun.
Tomatillos grow best in neutral soil with an average pH of about 7.0. For gardeners with a short growing season, the tomatillo seeds should be started indoors about six weeks prior to the last seasonal frost. In warmer regions with longer growing seasons, the seeds can be planted directly into the garden after all chance of frost has passed.
Sow the seeds about one-quarter inch deep. Transplants can be moved to the garden once the nighttime temperatures stay above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Space transplants two to three feet apart, depending upon if they will be caged or left to sprawl. Those started from seed directly in the garden should also be thinned to about two to three feet apart once the plants are established.
Tomatillo Plant care
After plants have been spaced, mulch can be applied around the plants to deter weeds and retain moisture. Plants can be lightly watered during times of little rainfall.
Generally, tomatillos are hardy, but they can be affected by the same garden pests that bother regular tomatoes. In healthy garden soil, tomatillos do not require regular feedings.
Just like tomatoes, they will need some support. Make sure you have plenty of tomato cages on hand to help them out. If you don't they will sprawl out and encroach on neighboring plants in your garden.
Tomatillos can be picked when the fruits are plump, and the husks begin to break apart. The fruits should be felt for firmness since the husks do not always break. As the fruits become larger, they tend to have a sweeter flavor, but the inside will also have more seeds. Tomatillos left on the vine too long can become over-bitter.
Harvest the tomatillos and remove the husks. Wash the fruits, which will have a sticky film that needs to be removed. If storing the tomatillos, do not remove the husks.
Like tomatoes, tomatillos should not be stored in the refrigerator and should be used as soon as possible. Tomatillos not only add flavor to your favorite Mexican dish, but they also pair well in salads, sauces, and pies.
Easy Recipe for Tomatillos
Salsa Verde is a staple in Mexico - and is great for using on everything from tacos to eggs. While I love this Crockpot Tomatillo Pork Nachos dish, I would be doing you an injustice not sharing a recipe for Salsa Verde. Check out this great recipe:
Can you grow tomatillos in Buckets/containers?
It is surprisingly easy to grow them in your container garden, just make sure you have a large enough pot for the mature plant. Whether you keep them inside or out, make sure you add a tomato cage to the pot for their support.