•    Tomatillo   

    What is a tomatillo?

    The tomatillo is part of the nightshade family and related to gooseberries also known as ground cherries. The plants bear small, round  green or green-purple fruit. Tomatillos originated in Mexico and are a staple of Mexican and Central American green sauces also known as salsa verde. Tomatillos are grown as annuals throughout the Western Hemisphere. Tomatillos are frequently eaten fried, boiled, or steamed. They have a bright, lemon-like flavor perfect with spicy food.

    The inside of a tomatillo is white and meatier than a tomato. They grow to maturity inside of a husk. They can range in size from about an inch in diameter to the size of apricots. They tomatillosare covered by a papery husk which may range from the pale green color of the fruit itself to a light grocery-bag brown. The husks are inedible and should be removed before use.

    Ripe tomatillos will keep refrigerated for about two weeks. They will keep even longer if the husks are removed and the fruits are placed in sealed plastic bags stored in the refrigerator, and may also be frozen whole or sliced.

    When growing your own, they are ripe when the tomatillo fills out its papery husk but are still green in color. If they turn yellow, they are still useable but at this stage loose much of their tangy flavor.

    The plants will grow to a height of 3 to 4 feet. They are generally available from May through November and are drought tolerant. Two or more plants are needed for proper pollination. Isolated or singe tomatillo plants rarely set fruit.


    Tomatillo History And Lore

    The Aztecs were the first known to have domesticated the tomatillo back to at least 800 B.C. Europeans that came to the New World and documented local foods often confused food names. The Aztec word for tomato (as we know the fruit) is xitomatl and the husk tomato (tomatillo) was call miltomatl. Europeans frequently shortened both names to tomatl and therein lies the confusion.

    The confusion is carried on today. In many areas of Mexico the domesticated tomatillo is called tomate and the wild version called miltomate and what we know as tomato is called jitomate.

    The tomatillo never gained in popularity with Europeans and it was the tomato that was taken to Italy where it grew well in the Mediterranean climate. Today, the tomatillo is common in the U.S. as the Hispanic population has increased.

    Medicinal uses: In Mexico they make a concoction made from the outermost group of floral parts; the sepals or calyces to treat Diabetes. The fruits are also used as a remedy for fever. The leaves are also used to treat urinary tract infections.


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