The tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa or P. philadelphica) is a member of the nightshade family, like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, and is known by many names such as husk tomatoes, Mexican green tomatoes, and strawberry tomatoes. Although tomatillos look similar to Chinese lanterns, they are a separate species.
In its native Mexico, the tomatillo is known as the tomate verde and has been a kitchen mainstay for centuries. It has a tangy, citrusy flavor and can be consumed fresh, cooked in stews or soups, mole sauces, and various types of salsa, or preserved through canning.
While a relative of the tomato, the tomatillo is notably different with its tight fitting, purple-veined and light-brown or green papery husk. The purple or green fruit is firm, covered in a tacky residue, and roughly 1 to 2 inches in diameter, or about the size and shape of a large walnut.
Types & Varieties
Tomatillos range in color from green to purple to yellow. Preferred purple cultivars include Purple Coban, Purple de Milpa, and Purple Hybrid.
Popular green cultivars include Gigante, Gulliver Hybrid, Rendidora, Tamayo, and Toma Verde. The green fleshed Rendidora is particularly prized for its large fruit, upright growth, and high yields both in Mexico and the United States.
Tomatillos can be eaten at many stages of the growing process with differing taste. At full ripeness, usually green or purple, tomatillos are tart and citrusy, somewhat similar to a green apple and ideal for salsa verde.
Tomatillos should be harvested as soon as they ripen, or they can become overly sweet, bland, and yellow.