Sunday 15 August 2010


This is the first year I have grown tomatillos. They are not very common in the UK, because they like a warm climate. I think most people in the UK have never heard of them. We discovered them at a talk given by Thomasina Miers, about Mexican food, at the British Museum -- it inspired us to explore this cuisine a bit more. In the past I had generally avoided Mexican food because it often contains leaf coriander (cilantro), to which I am violently allergic. At Tommy's session we also discovered the Chipotle chilli and chilli-and-chocolate ice cream (delicious!)

Mexican Tomatillo

Mexican Tomatillo

Green Tomatillo

I bought seeds for two different types of tomatillo, decribed as "Green Tomatillo" and "Mexican Tomatillo". Not sure if they are supposed to be different or not, but I have noticed that the fruits are a slightly different shape. I sowed enough for four plants of each type, and subsequently kept two of each for planting-up. Having only a vague idea about what to expect, I treated the tomatillos as I would tomatoes (which seems to have worked out OK). I planted them in big tubs, filled with multi-purpose compost. They have done well, and have developed into enormous and rather straggly plants. If I grow them again, I think I would only need two plants. [You do need at least two though, because they are not self-fertile, and will rely on one another for pollination.]

They have already produced masses of fruits, and there is a lot more to come. Each fruit is encased in a sort of husk (very much like the Physalis, or Cape Gooseberry, if you know what that is), so it is quite hard to tell when they are ripe. By trial and error I have established that when the husk begins to split, the fruit is about ready. I think if you left it until the husk went dry and brown it would be too late. The fruit can be eaten raw, but is more normally cooked. Its taste is hard to describe, rather fruity, and not at all like a tomato!

Green Tomatillos top right

I wasn't really sure what to do with the fruits, but I obtained a nice recipe for Tomatillo salsa from a friend of my daughter. Joshua Stokes is a professional chef, working in New York. His website is Grill a Chef just in case you're interested. The recipe uses tomatillos, garlic and chilli, with a drizzle of olive oil, roasted in the oven until soft and then zuzzed-up in a food processor until fairly smooth. With the addition of a generous squeeze of lime (and leaf coriander if you like it) this is great as a dip for eating with tortilla chips. There are also some recipes that call for grilled tomatillos, but we haven't yet tried them.

Tomatillo salsa in the making

This last weekend we have had some very wet and windy weather, and a couple of the plants toppled over, so I have had to weigh down the pots with some spare bricks!

Top-heavy Tomatillo plant weighted down with bricks!
I have mixed opinions of the Tomatillo. They are "quite nice" but to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't swap them for tomatoes!


  1. Mark, I went back and found your tomatillo post (since you mentioned growing them on your cape berry post). This is my first year growing them. Thanks for the best guess as to when to pick them. I was having a hard time deciding since several references said to wait until it broke through the husk and the husk started turning brown but other references said to pick when it just fills out the husk. I picked a few today. I'm excited to make salsa!!

  2. When placed on furlough at the end of March, out of pure boredom I planted every seed I could find, I planted what I thought were Aubergines and ended up with 185 plants, I gave 50 to the local allotment and various friends, after weeks of questioning why they do not look like Aubergines, I find they are Tomatillo's, I had never heard of them prior to finding out what they are, and god only knows where the seeds came from, they are about 4' high and have about 10 - 15 pretty flowers which then turn to globes / husks hiding the fruit, haven't plucked up the courage to apologise to the local allotment yet.


Thank you for taking time to leave me a comment! Please note that Comment Moderation is enabled for older posts.