The tomatillo is an odd little fruit. When I tell people that I planted a tomatillo plant in a pot in my front yard, they usually say, “Toma-what-what?”. I actually never knew what a tomatillo was either, until last summer. I like to try new foods… sometimes I’ll just buy something I see in the store or at the farmers market because it looks different. Often times I have absolutely no idea what I’m getting into.
Once, I purchased a bitter melon. Had there been a sign near this curious-looking vegetable that said ‘bitter melon,’ I might have had a clue about it’s overpowering, awful, bitter flavor. But no, there was no sign. It was anonymous… and I just couldn’t keep my hands off of it. It looked a bit like a funky cucumber so I expected it to be similar. And oh boy, was I wrong. Really wrong. Let’s just say there is a very good reason it is called bitter melon.
But I digress. This article is about the amazing, nearly indescribable tomatillo— which is a relative of the tomato plant. It is not, as some people think, a green tomato. Without it’s papery husk, it does resemble a green tomato from the outside, but once you cut into it, you’ll know it’s different. It’s not at all watery like its tomato cousin. It has small seeds that are nested in a sort of crispy, green-apple-ish looking interior. And the flavor— hard to describe. It’s tart, tangy, and sweet all at the same time.
In the store or at the farmer’s market, they look like this:
I became so enamored with this crazy little fruit last summer that I decided to try growing my own this summer. The bush itself shot up quickly— its gangly dark stems reaching towards the sky. The flowers were sweet little yellow things. My favorite part the tomatillo plant are the tiny little lantern-like fruits that magically appear and over time, transform into delicious little firm spheres of tomatillo yumminess.
Although my yard doesn’t get a full day’s worth of direct sunlight, my tomatillo plant did ok. I didn’t have a bumper crop this year, but I managed to harvest enough tomatillos to garnish a few dishes— and they were absolutely divine. I had purchased a purple variety of the plant and as you can see from the top photo, where the husks split open and the fruits were exposed to the sun, they turned a beautiful shade of purple.
Unfortunately my plant didn’t yield enough to make my own salsa this year, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying some amazing tomatillo salsa. I have recently discovered a fabulous tomatillo salsa made by a company here in Colorado called White Girl Salsa. I met the founder, Julie, a.k.a. White Girl, this summer when she was offering free samples at Whole Foods. (I just love it when people who make delicious food offer free samples!) Julie is a cool gal, with an awesome cowboy hat, and it’s her fault that I now have a unyielding addiction to her tomatillo salsa.
She calls it Cranberry Mango salsa, and as you might imagine, tomatillos go fabulously well with cranberries and mangoes. Check out her site— you can order her delicious salsa online! Seriously, this is good stuff. I eat it on chips, spoon it over beans and rice, and it always goes on my healthy nachos!