The flavor of the tomatillo is delicate but slightly tart in a green tomato sort of way, although it can sometimes border on sweet. Some say the flavor of the tomatillo is a combination of apple, lemon, and herbs.
“Slightly tart in a green tomato sort of way” makes sense since the tomatillo is also called the Mexican green tomato. Tomatillo means “little tomato” in Spanish.
If you’ve met the tomatillo, you won’t have forgotten. It looks like a small green tomato oddly gift wrapped in brittle papery covering. When ripe the color of the tomatillo’s skin will turn to yellow or purple, but you can use it green.
Sliced raw onto a salad or diced into salsa are two ways to use the tomatillo, but most often it is slow simmered until soft, puréed, and added with onions and peppers to make green sauce.
The tomatillo is a mid- to late-summer vegetable.
The tomatillo is a relative of the tomato, eggplant, pepper, and potato. Its fruit is actually a berry and grows from 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm) in diameter. It is smaller, more firm, and glossier than the tomato.
The interior flesh of the tomatillo is usually pale yellow with a gelatinous texture and contains dozens of tiny seeds.
The tomatillo plant grows from 3 to 4 feet (.9-1.2 m) tall. The papery husk or membrane that covers the tomatillo’s berry is actually a calyx or flower part. The husk splits when the tomatillo ripens and turns a brownish orange color but never falls off. The tomatillo is also sometimes called the Mexican husk tomato.
The Aztecs and Mayans considered the tomatillo a staple in their cookery. The tomatillo is native to Mexico.
Choose. Select tomatillos that are firm, unblemished, and evenly colored. The husk should be tight fitting, free of mold, and crisp.
Store. Tomatillos will keep for 2 days at room temperature and for 1 week in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. You can freeze tomatillos after cooking.
Prepare. To use the tomatillo, first peel off the husk and wash it, particularly any sticky resin that you might find at the base of the stem. Remove the core before slicing the tomatillo raw onto salads or into salsas.
Cooking will enhance the flavor and soften the tomatillo’s thick skin. Simmer the tomatillo in water about 10 minutes until the skin is soft and easily pierced with a knife.
Serve. Use the tomatillo raw or cooked. Add it sliced raw onto a salad or mince raw and add to gazpacho, salsa, or guacamole.
Simmer the tomatillo with onion and garlic till soft and then blend to make enchilada sauce. Salsa verde is made of ground tomatillos, onion, and chiles.
Use the tomatillo-based sauce to season tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and meats.
Flavor partners. The tomatillo has a flavor affinity for cilantro, cucumber, green chile peppers, grilled foods, lime, pumpkin seeds, tequila, tomatoes, and onion.
Nutrition. Tomatillos are a good source of potassium and contain vitamin C, magnesium, niacin, and thiamine.
The botanical name for tomatillo is Physalis ixocarpa.