Tomatillos are a plant of the nightshade family bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. They are also known as Mexican husk tomato. They originate in Mexico where they are commonly used raw and in salads.
As is the case with most plant originating in Mexico, they can also be grown in the US and that’s mostly done in the southern parts of the country including Florida, California and Mexico. Large scale production is mostly done in Mexico and Guatemala.
- They were grown by the Aztecs
- They are used to cure diabetes
- They are not to be used by those who have inflamed joints
The key to choosing the right tomatillo is to make sure that they are ripe. That can be done by opening the tomatillo up and to look for the flesh beneath the husk. It should feel firm but bend slightly to the touch. The color of it is also a good indicator of its ripeness. It should be bright and green.
If there are any bumps along the husk, you should probably let go of that one since it’s too old.
Production & Farming in Texas
Tomatillos aren’t produced in large number in Texas. Most of the US production comes from California and Florida. There are a few commercial establishments however, that are mostly there to provide the produce for the local Mexican restaurants and farmers markets.
Seed companies carry a wide selection of varieties, including ‘Cape Gooseberry’, ‘Golden Nugget’, ‘Mayan Husk Tomato’, ‘Mexican Husk’, and ‘Rendidora’, which is an improved cultivar.
The plants are very sensitive to cold and therefore they can’t survive a frost that can sometimes happen in Texas. Tomatillos are planted from seed unlike regular tomatoes that we’re used to.
Tomatillos prefer well-drained, sandy loam soils with a pH between 5.5 and 7.3. You should avoid wet soil, but in general the soil that’s suitable for tomatoes will be suitable here.
Space ‘Rendidora’ 16 inches between the plants and 4 feet between the rows. For other varieties, plant every 2 feet in rows 5 feet apart. If you are starting with seeds, plant 3 or 4 tomatillo seeds 2 feet apart. When the plants reach 4 to 5 inches tall, thin them to one plant every 2 feet.
The plant starts bearing fruit 65 to 85 days after seeding and they continue to do so for 2 months up to the first frost. That’s the time to harvest.
There’s little to no pesticides used on this plant at all since it’s rather versatile and resilient on its own.
The plant war grown by Mayas in what’s today’s Mexico and central America before the age of exploration and it played an important role in local economy, cuisine, and culture. They can also be grown a bit to the north and south from their place of origin so they can be found in US and in Guatemala.
Wild ones can be found across the US but they can’t be used for culinary purposes. At the same time, tomatillos have been transported across the world and are grown in suitable climates such as those in India, Australia, South Africa, and Kenya.
The plant is packed and moved in a similar way than the tomatoes themselves but there’s less need to handle them with care since the wrapping husk around the tomatillo will keep it safer. They can be moved in open cardboard boxes or cardboard tubes and those are usually left opened so that the customers could pick and choose the ones they find to be ripe.
Tomatillos can be eaten raw and that’s the way how they are used in Mexico. This taste isn’t for everyone however, since it’s a little bit acidic and punchy. Cooking them will make them more mellow and easier to cook with and that’s what most recipes are requiring you to do.
Beside that the tomatillos can also be stir fried while raw and that’s a good way to use all the juices that the plant has to offer and to combine it with other more complex portions of the recipe. Roasting and grilling is also an option.
Fresh tomatillos from which the husk hasn’t been removed from can be stored in a fridge for about two weeks as long as you keep the husk intact. It’s best to keep them in a plastic bag because that way they won’t be too wet and they won’t change their smell.
When the husk is removed and when tomatillo is stored in a plastic bag they will probably last one week longer than they would with a husk.
Tomatillos can be used in a variety of different dishes common for Mexican cuisine and here’s a simple recipe for a salsa that everyone can make.
Remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse. Place the tomatillos and the jalapeño in a pan and cover with water. Place over medium-high heat and boil until the tomatillos are fully cooked and are a dull olive green color, about 10 minutes.
Strain the mixture, then place the tomatillos and jalapeño in a food processor. Add the garlic and cilantro and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Tomatillos are low in carbohydrates with just under 4 grams total per 1/2 cup serving. Of this, 1.3 grams come from fiber and 2.6 grams are natural sugars.
Tomatillos are almost fat-free with less than 1/2 gram in one medium-sized tomatillo. There’s also less than 1/2 gram of protein per tomatillo.
Like many fruits and vegetables, tomatillos fit perfectly into a heart-healthy dietary pattern. Their naturally low sodium and high potassium content keep blood pressure levels down. Tomatillos also provide vitamins A and C, which both act as antioxidants against free radicals. The fiber in tomatillos helps lower blood cholesterol. For numerous reasons, it’s no surprise that the American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables every day—and tomatillos can make a great addition
When Are Tomatillos in Season in Texas?
To find out when Tomatillos are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.