The tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa or P. philadelphica) is a member of the nightshade family, like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. The versatile tomatillo is also known by many names such as husk tomatoes, Mexican green tomatoes, and strawberry tomatoes. Although the tomatillo looks 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, 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 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.

References: Iowa State University Extension, University of Minnesota Extension, Utah State University Extension.

SEASONAL AVAILABILITY

Seasonal Availability Chart References: Epicurean Supplies, Foodservice Australia, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Herbarium University of Michigan, Purdue University Extension, Texas A&M Extension, University of California Vegetable Research and Information Center.

 

TYPES, VARIETIES & CUTS

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. It is recommended to harvest tomatillos as soon as they ripen because they will become overly sweet, bland, and yellow if not harvested promptly.

References: Iowa State University Extension, University of Minnesota Extension, Utah State University Extension.

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