Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tomatillo Time Lapse

We are growing tomatillos for the first time this summer.
Tomatillo transplants far left,  May 22
Purple tomatillos, June 3
Close-up of the tomatillo vines
green tomatillo growing crooked
Tomatillo buds, June 11
June 21
June 29
June 26

July 4

We're growing both purple and green tomatillos. I had never seen purple tomatillos before, but apparently the fruit can be purple, red, or yellow when ripe. When I saw the purple seed packets at a nursery early this spring, I knew I wanted to try to grow both green and purple ones. 

We started the seeds indoors in March and transplanted them in May. As with 95% of our vegetables, they're in containers. I thought the vines were growing a little crooked, but without a plant in the ground to compare them with, I'm not sure if that's normal or what. But they began to sprout buds, and a couple of weeks ago we counted three different types of bees buzzing around all the blooms, so I kept my fingers crossed....and right now all the plants have blossoms and/or husks forming! All tomatillos develop their fruit within the husk. 

I'd read that tomatillos won't set fruit by themselves and need another plant to help with pollination. We have three green plants and two purple ones. I also read that they don't need to be staked, so their weird crooked stems probably serve to provide stability. We're treating them as we do our other container vegetables--making sure they get watered regularly and keeping a layer of mulch in the container to prevent weeds and preserve moisture. Within the next week or two we'll probably add some fertilizer.

I'm so anxious to see the fruit! The packet says 60 days to harvest, so that should be around mid- late-July. We can't pick them until the husks turn brown and start to split open. I've peeked inside some of the husks and see blooms in there (last picture). I hope it's the beginning of a lot of fruit.

Green tomatillos don't taste very good by themselves, in my opinion. They don't have the sweet taste or soft skin of a regular tomato, but they are excellent ingredients in salsas and taste good grilled. The purple variety supposedly tastes sweeter, but I plan to add it to salsas and grill them too. I'm collecting salsa recipes and am thinking about maybe adding them to chili. If anyone has any good recipes with tomatillos as an ingredient, please send me recommendations! I'd love to experiment with different dishes using tomatillos as an ingredient.


  1. I never ever had a tomatillo. I guess it is about time, but saying they don't taste so good by themselves is not good advertising! In salsa, they can be sweetened.

  2. LOL! I guess some people may like how they taste alone, but I didn't. But mixed with salt, cilantro, onions, and garlic they are great!

  3. I've made chicken enchiladas verde with a wonderful tomatillo sauce. Yum... tasty!! I think plants that grow a bit weird add character to a garden, kinda like life!! :o)

  4. I'm looking forward to seeing purple tomatillos! I sometimes grow veggies for their colorful or odd appearance, as well as their taste.

  5. @Casa Mariposa - Mmmmm, chicken enchiladas with a salsa verde sounds delicious! These plants def. are adding character to my garden :)

    @Deb - I'm looking forward to seeing the purple ones too! I've read they're supposed to taste sweeter also, so I can't wait to try one.

  6. I'm a hot sauce girl, but I don't think I've ever had tomatillas, either, unless they were mixed in and I didn't know it. I see them in stores but don't know what to do with them. Good luck with yours - hope you get some great recipes. I think I'd like the purple ones better, too.

  7. I was just reading about tomatillos in a gardening magazine and am determined to grow them next year. They look pretty interesting!

  8. Never seen one of these tomatilloes yet, how does it taste like? Their yellow flowers are so sweet!

  9. I use them all the time in salsa and gazpacho. My husband and I are Food Network junkies and that is where we learned to cook with them. Yum! I'd love to grow some.... where do you get your seeds?

  10. WE grew them too for the first time. Thanks for the helpful tips about staking etc. Looking forward to all your yummy recipes.

  11. @CathyandSteve -- I love FN too! I've never made gazpacho before, I'll have to try that this year. We bought our seeds at this little nursery in our neighborhood, but the brand is Ferry Morse.

    @Janet -- I'll have to come take a look at your tomatillos. :)

  12. My neighbor grows grape tomatoes and shares. Delicious.

  13. One thing you should keep in mind about tomatillos is that unlike tomatoes,which have a short shelf life in the refrigerator, tomatillos will keep for a few months in either a cool root cellar if you are so blessed (we aren't) or your refrigerator.

    When our tomatoes are ready to harvest, we'll post our recipes for gazpacho and salsa (I use tomatillos in both). I have to get them at the grocery and they don't always have them, so I buy 5-6 pounds or more if I can get that many and store them in the veggie bin of our extra refrigerator.

    Frankly, I agree with you about the taste but what I think makes them so attractive is that they are highly nutritious and keep very well for long periods of time... long after harvest. As a result, they've been able to take the place of some tomatoes in salsa and gazpacho and other sauces.

    Store them in the papery husks, BTW. I have kept them for well over 2 months and never had one go bad on me.

  14. Try cape gooseberries, which are a relative of the tomatillo, but sweet. They are great in pies or cobblers.This blogger has a good post on them:

  15. I have been growing tomatillos for about three years. We love them. We like a few others enjoy eating them raw. Mine tend to have a citrus-y flavor. I have also purchased Goya canned tomatillos and they taste completely different. Last year I found the purple variety takes a bit longer to ripen. My advice be patient with the purple ones. I also suggest the tomatillo salsa recipes in the Ball canning book. I made a lot last year and people really enjoyed it. You may want to stake some of the weaker stalks. If you have any questions let me know.



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