Plants on Your Plate: Tomatillo
Along with the usual assortment of tomatoes that we are accustomed to planting, this year our garden includes a ‘cousin’ that we sometimes have difficulty locating when it is time to plant– tomatillos. This weedy-looking plant tries its best to take over the space while we try to just keep it contained!
The tomatillo is native to Central American where it grew wild (hence its desire to spread) and was domesticated in Mexico where it has been grown as a food crop for hundreds of years. Tomatillos are also known as husk tomatoes, Mexican green tomatoes, Mexican ground cherry, and strawberry tomatoes. They are a member of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family, as are tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers.
The outer paper-like husk of the tomatillo resembles a Chinese lantern and acts as a sort of protection to the fruit inside. Tomatillos are ripe when the fruit fills and splits the husk, however the fruit itself should be green and firm. Fruit that is yellow will tend to a sweeter flavor, rather than the characteristic tart flavor expected of a tomatillo. After peeling the husk away, the tomatillo will be sticky, which is normal and easily washed away.
Tomatillos are rich in Vitamins C and K, which provide immune support and help our bodies heal from injury. They also provide niacin that helps our body turn carbohydrates in to energy and potassium that aids in muscle contraction and regulation of blood pressure. Of course, as with all fruits and vegetables, there is also fiber which aids in digestive health.
As a traditional part of Mexican cooking, tomatillos are often found in stews, moles, and salsas. For a quick fresh green salsa, sauté 2 cups chopped tomatillos, ½ cup diced onion, ½ cup diced green chili, and 1 minced garlic clove in 2 tbsp. oil. Add ¼ cup of water and heat until the vegetables are soft. Purée mixture in a blender and add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro if desired. If you have an abundance of tomatillos (like I am expecting) the recipe below is our favorite to preserve some of that garden goodness to enjoy long past garden season.
Green Tomatillo Salsa
(Makes about 5 pints)
5 cups chopped tomatillos
1-½ cups seeded, chopped long green chiles
½ cup seeded, finely chopped jalapeño peppers
4 cups chopped onions
1 cup bottled lemon or lime juice
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin (optional)
3 tablespoons dried oregano leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Wash hands, work surfaces, and equipment with warm, soapy water.
Preparing Tomatillos: Remove the dry outer husks from tomatillos; wash thoroughly. They do not need to be peeled or seeded. Chop tomatillos.
Preparing Peppers: (Wear plastic or rubber gloves and do not touch your face while handling or cutting hot peppers. If you do not wear gloves, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face or eyes.) If you choose to peel chiles, slit each pepper along the side to allow steam to escape. Peel using one of these two methods:
Oven or broiler method - Place chiles in a hot oven (400°F) or broiler for 6 to 8 minutes until skins blister.
Range-top method - Cover hot burner (either gas or electric) with heavy wire mesh. Place peppers on burner for several minutes until skins blister.
After blistering skins, place peppers in a pan and cover with a damp cloth. Cool several minutes; slip off skins. Discard seeds and chop peppers.
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and stir frequently over high heat until mixture begins to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2O minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot into clean, hot pint jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes (adjust for altitudes above 1000 feet as recommended). When time is up, turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars sit in water for 5 minutes more. Remove jars and let sit undisturbed on counter for 24 hours, checking for vacuum seal after 2 hours.
Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more information and safe, tested recipes like this one. https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_salsa/tomatillo_green_salsa.html
Nutrition information: (2 tablespoons) Calories: 10, Total Fat: 0g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Sodium: 89mg, Carbohydrates: 2.5g, Fiber: 0g, Protein: 0g
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