These unusual tasty fruits, which are surrounded by a papery lantern, are very productive and enjoy the same growing conditions as tomatoes. The verde are tangy, with the purple being a good bit sweeter in flavour. The fruits, which can be eaten raw or cooked, are a favourite in Mexican cooking and are an essential ingredient in authentic salsa.
Sow: your tomatillo seeds under glass, from March to April, in seed compost, in individual pots. Covering the pot with a clear plastic bag can help to retain moisture and keep the temperature warm and as even as possible. Seedlings should emerge after around 7-10 days. After a further 4 weeks, if roots start to appear from the bottom of the pot, transplant seedlings to a larger container. Please note: for fruit, two or more tomatillo plant should be grown, as they are not self-fertile! Also be aware that plants can yield up to 4kg of fruit each so 2 or 3 should be more than enough for most!
Tomatillo prefer the warmth of a greenhouse, polytunnel or the like, but can be grown outdoors successfully if you choose a sunny, sheltered site (positioning plants against a wall or fence will provide protection and support) and dig plenty of well rotted organic matter into the soil. Harden off seedlings prior to planting out, 2-3 weeks after all frosts are past in your area. Plant reasonably close together to aid pollination. Loosely tie the stems of the plant to the support system with garden twine.
Aftercare: Continue to water regularly, and to loosely tie the main stem to the support as it grows. Pinch out the tips to keep the plants bushy. Once flowers appear, treat to an organic tomato plant feed every couple of weeks if you feel inclined. Tomatillos are rarely troubled by pests and diseases.
Harvest: August to September, when fruits are full formed and bursting through the casing, which will have turned brown and papery. They should be firm to the touch.
Salsa Verde Recipe
400g (about 1lb in old money) tomatillos verde (remove husks and rinse)
To produce a smooth sauce, gently roast the tomatillos and chillies then remove their skins. If time or motivation are in short supply, or you want a sour crunch to your sauce, then use the vegetables in their raw state!
Simply put all the vegetables into a food processor and pulse 4-5 times. Add in the remaining ingredients and pulse until the desired consistency is achieved.
The sauce can be served immediately, but the flavours will improve if they are allowed to mingle in the fridge overnight!