January 13, 2015
Also known as Husk Tomato, Jamberry, Husk Cherry or Mexican Tomato the tomatillo [little tomato] is a plant of the nightshade family. Closely related to the physalis and tomatoes they originate in Mexico. The original Nahuatl [Aztec] word for tomatillo in Miltomatl.
The tomatillo bears small, spherical, green or green-purple [sometimes yellow to red] fruits. But they’re most flavorful if harvested just before ripening, when they’re vibrant green. Their size ranges from a large cherry tomato to an apricot. The inside is white and meatier than a tomato. They are surrounded by an inedible, paper-like husk. Another characteristic is that they tend to have a sappy sticky coating on the green skin.
Just to clarify – tomatillos are actually fruit that are used like a vegetable.
Tomatillos are usually available nearly year-round, frequently imported from Mexico. However, tomatillos are a warm-weather plant – so their peak local availability in most parts of North America is in the summer, usually from July through September. In Europe you are lucky if you happen to find any at all.
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Fruit should be firm, without blemishes and bright green – as the green color and tart flavor are the main culinary contributions of the fruit.
Choose small tomatillos. They are sweeter than the larger, golf-ball-size ones.
The condition of the “husk” is a good indication of the freshness of the fruit. The husk should be green, firmly attached and fresh looking [not shriveled and dried].
Ripe tomatillos will keep refrigerated for about two weeks. Leave the husks intact, wrapped around the fruit like little paper bags. They last a week longer in the refrigerator if the husks are removed and the fruit is placed in sealed plastic bags.
They may also be frozen whole or sliced. Put the fruit on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until completely frozen – then transfer to zip-top plastic freezer bags.
Remove the husks before using [as the husks are inedible]. Tomatillos are very easy to cook with because they don’t need to be peeled or seeded. Their texture is firm when raw, but soften when cooked. Rinse before using as the tomatillo is covered by a sticky substance. Do not peel the green skin.
Tomatillos can by very inconsistent in flavor, with some being sour and others tasting mild and sweet. If the tomatillos are to tart for your taste, try adding a little sugar to balance the taste.
Raw – Raw or uncooked tomatillos are the key ingredient in fresh Mexican and Central-American green sauces. They add a fresh citrus-like flavor.
Blanching – Blanching mellows the flavor. Boil for approximately 5 minutes or until soft [washed and husk removed]. Drain and crush or puree as directed in your recipe.
Fire Roasting – Roast under the broiler, with a propane torch, or over an open flame such as a grill. The charred or slightly blackened skins will enrich your sauces with a smoky flavor.
Dry Roasting – This will produce an earthy, nutty flavor. Roast on low temperature for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
Tomatillos are a perfect match for chile peppers, onions, and cilantro, all of which are key ingredients in salsa verde, a popular Mexican sauce for grilled meats and fish. Tomatillos are also good with avocados, corn, lime, and scallions in salads or sauces to serve with seafood or grilled meat.
Tomatillos are most closely associated with Mexican and Central American cuisine [including Guatemalan] but the fruit has also made its way to India, where it shows up in chutneys, curries and dals.
Like their close relatives, physalis, tomatillos have a high pectin content. Frequently paired with cinnamon, the fruit has made its way into sweet cuisine – like jams, tarts and pies.
Tomatillos may be delicious, but they aren’t super nutrient-dense. They do have quite a bit of Vitamin C and are good sources of Vitamin K and niacin, as well as zeaxanthin and lutein – both necessary for eye health. They are also fairly high in fiber and low in calories.
Some of the health benefits of tomatillos include its ability to reduce the chances of diabetes, increase the health of your digestive system, boost the immune system, increase cellular growth, increase energy levels, prevent certain types of cancer, improve vision health, lower blood pressure, and can help in weight loss efforts.
Nutritional value per 100g [% of Daily Value]