Growing tomatillos. Are they like a tomato?

Ask Kitty

Dear Kitty,

One of the folks who live near me is growing tomatillos. Are they like a tomato? He said I could use them for my salsa (I make a great salsa or so I have been told). He gave me some seeds, are they hard to grow? Just looking for some details.

Thanks, Salsa Queen

Dear Salsa Queen,

First, I would love to try your salsa! Good work on preparing your own. Now, the tomatillo. I love them and the salsa verde that can be made from them…yum! In answer to your question ‘are they like tomatoes?’ Yes sort of, once removed from their papery husk the tomatillo looks just like a small green tomato. They are green until they are completely ripe then they may be yellow or purple. Their name is similar and both are part of the nightshade family. Different genus but still relatives.

Now, the differences. Tomatillos are a fruit that grow inside a husk. The husk looks almost like an onion skin once it’s dry. When the husk is peeled back the small green fruit inside is very sticky. The husk and stickiness are both insect deterrents. Tomatoes don’t have this cool deterrent system. Tomatillos are quite tender. Despite this tenderness they are easy to grow in just average soil. They need water like a tomato (so periodic deep watering) but no fancy schedule or feed is necessary. It grows like a vine tomato, all over the ground and will flop on other plants. This laying about is because of its weak stems. They will lay about even before the fruit starts to grow.

Once the tomatillos are harvested, husks removed, stickiness washed off, you can taste it. It’s like a cross between a green tomato and a lime in flavour. This flavour is another difference, and why they are not interchangeable with tomatoes. Tomatillos are most commonly used in green salsa and there are many different salsa recipes for using tomatillos. They are also delicious in enchiladas, guacamole and a yummy salad dressing.

I hope you decide to grow these lovely plants next year. I also am going to offer the suggestion that you talk with your neighbour as it sounds like he is successful at growing these little husk covered gems in your locale.

Can’t wait for an invite for chips and salsa,



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