Tons of Tomatillos

What's not to love about a plant that requires little fussing, has huge yields, and is less susceptible to pests than tomatoes? The tomatillo is an easy-to-grow garden gem.

| Summer 2013

Put those tomatillos to use with these tasty recipes! Salsa Verde with Avocado Recipe  Pickled Tomatillos Recipe

For some vegetable gardeners, choosing a favorite plant is like choosing a favorite child. How could anyone decide? Each plant has its own wonderfully unique qualities, whether it’s an early harvest, abundant fruits, or particular resilience. For me, however, there is a clear favorite, and my garden is full of them: tomatillos. There are green ones the size of golf balls, smaller purple ones, and even the tomatillo’s tiny yellow cousin, the ground cherry.

Though I am most definitely a fan of salsa verde, it’s not the tomatillo’s culinary assets that give it the favored status in my garden. It’s the virtues of the plant itself. A tomatillo plant requires relatively little fussing, has huge yields, and is less susceptible to pests than tomatoes. A healthy plant can yield 10 to 15 pounds of fruit. Being indeterminate, it will continue to produce fruit well into the chilly fall weather. The plant has a graceful branched shape and lovely yellow flowers that make it pretty enough to warrant a spot in the garden even if it didn’t produce food.

Tomatillos are survivors. They have been traced back to 800 B.C. in Meso-America. One of the plant’s most unique features is the lantern-like covering that protects each fruit. It comes with its own little biodegradable packaging. Before the fruit forms, a papery covering emerges ready to receive the growing fruit. The papery husk protects ripe fruits from damage when they fall. If the fallen fruits are not harvested, the husk slowly deteriorates, leaving a delicately veined skeleton with a mini package of seeds inside. When autumn winds come, the seed packet is blown far and wide, assuring more tomatillos for next year. No wonder the plant has survived for thousands of years.

Tomatillos also have a mechanism to protect them from dehydration. They secrete a sticky substance helping the fruits to stay moist in climates where summer rains are infrequent.


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