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jsolomon

Tomatillos: The Topic

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A few years ago I tried growing tomatillos in my Colorado garden (at 7,000 feet it can be as challenging as your cool wet summer). They were prolific, trouble-free, and yes, messy. If you try growing them again, cut off the growing tops toward the end of summer so that fruit that's already growing can mature completely (this is something that also works for tomatoes). I found no significant difference between the ones that were bursting out of their husks and the ones that hadn't quite "finished." I turned them into a green sauce that I froze for use in the middle of winter. In that case I boiled them, which has the advantage of cooking them and getting rid of the sticky film at the same time. As I recall a short row (5 feet long) produced more than enough tomatillos for our use. In fact if it hadn't frozen early that year I would have pulled the darned things up just to make them stop.

 

I never had enough freezer space to freeze them whole, cooked or raw, and found that turning them into something like a sauce made better use of the available space.

 

I live in México now, so I have no need to grow them myself since they're readily available in the mercado. Mexicans feel that the small ones have the best flavor, but most of us don't have the patience required to peel husks off small ones. Most Mexicans boil them or toast them on a comal but rarely use them raw.

 

Nancy in Pátzcuaro

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Formerly "Nancy in CO"

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Interesting post, Nancy.  I must Google Patzcuaro and see where it is.  (Did it and you are still up very high.  Looks fascinating.  )And how right you were about the flowers.  I was so remiss this year in not cutting off the flowers.  I did that finally and then the fruits really began to fill out. But, alas, it was very late. 

 

As for freezer space, I am just about completely out now after adding yesterday's huge bag of tomatillos.  On the other hand, I just didn't have the time or energy to work in making the Chile Verde at that point.  Could have just cooked them I guess.


Edited by Darienne (log)

Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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Pátzcuaro and the surrounding area are indeed fascinating, especially at this time of year when we're getting ready for Muertos on Nov. 1. Pátzcuaro is Noche de Muertos Central, and the town is starting to fill up with visitors from all over México.

 

Here are two recipes, one cooked and one raw. The cooked version is more of a "sauce" and the raw more of a "salsa." In Spanish "salsa" means sauce, but for our purposes I'll make the distinction. Tomatillos are called "tomate verde" here.

Salsa de Tomato Verde Cruda (raw)

1/2 pound tomatillos, papery husk removed and rinsed
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
4 chiles serranos (or to taste), seeds and membranes removed and finely chopped
salt
2 Tbs. finely chopped white onion
2 Tbs. roughly chopped fresh cilantro

Coarsely chop the tomatillos (I use a food process for this), and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Tomatillos throw off a lot of moisture, so I generally don't add the salt until I'm ready to serve it. Depending on your tomatillos, you may even want to drain off all the moisture before salting. Serve at room temperature with chips.

Salsa de Tomate Verde Cocida (cooked)

1 pound tomatillos, papery husk removed and rinsed
4 chiles serrano (or to taste), seeds removed and quartered
2-3 Tbs. finely chopped white onion
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Salt
2 Tbs. oil

Put the tomatillos in a saucepan with the chiles and water to cover. Cook over a medium flame for 5 minutes after the water reaches a simmer. Transfer the tomatillos and chiles with some of the cooking water to a food processor or blender and process with the rest of the ingredients until smooth. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring, until slightly reduced, about 5-10 minutes. This can be frozen or used immediately as a sauce for pork or chicken.

By the way, these are both recipes from Diana Kennedy, the champion of authentic Mexican cooking. I've made them both and I think the cooked sauce is more useful, especially for storage purposes. In any case I've never had the raw salsa in a restaurant or private home, which doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

 

Nancy in Pátzcuaro

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Formerly "Nancy in CO"

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Here are two recipes, one cooked and one raw. The cooked version is more of a "sauce" and the raw more of a "salsa." Tomatillos are called "tomate verde" here.

Salsa de Tomate Verde Cocida (cooked)

1 pound tomatillos, papery husk removed and rinsed

4 chiles serrano (or to taste), seeds removed and quartered

2-3 Tbs. finely chopped white onion

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Salt

2 Tbs. oil

Put the tomatillos in a saucepan with the chiles and water to cover. Cook over a medium flame for 5 minutes after the water reaches a simmer. Transfer the tomatillos and chiles with some of the cooking water to a food processor or blender and process with the rest of the ingredients until smooth. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring, until slightly reduced, about 5-10 minutes. This can be frozen or used immediately as a sauce for pork or chicken.

By the way, these are both recipes from Diana Kennedy, the champion of authentic Mexican cooking. I've made them both and I think the cooked sauce is more useful, especially for storage purposes.

Nancy in Pátzcuaro

This second recipe for a cooked tomatillo sauce is essentially the same one I (and many others) use for green chilaquiles - both my traditional chilaquiles, and my quickie microwave version, which is ready for an easy, tasty breakfast, or a late-night snack in literally seconds, assuming you have your green sauce made.

If you roast/toast all your veggies first over/under an open fire in/on a comal/grill/skillet (there are so many ways to do it), it noticeably ramps up the flavor.

I roast the tomatillos with the husks on. I think they add something to the tomatillos and I find they're easier to remove after they're cooked.

Here's what Steve at Rancho Gordo says about it (note that in the 'comments' section, he says he forgot to mention that he removes the husks before completing the dish):

http://ranchogordo.typepad.com/rancho_gordo_experiments_/2006/11/tomatillos_milp.html


Edited by Jaymes (log)
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I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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that second recipe (the cooked one) is virtually identical to Bayless'

 

which implies strongly they're both just based on the traditional, and common, method

 

 

personally, I often use a chipotle or two in place of the serranos.

I like the smokiness

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I've used tomatillos just a few times, and have never really known what to look for to determine if a tomatillo is ripe and ready for cooking or eating.  I've just bought what was in the bin and prepared them ...

 

So, what do you look for to determine if a tomatillo is ripe and ready?  Should they be hard, firm, soft?  Dark green or light green?  Any fragrance to look for?  Do they husks give any indication of ripeness?  Can a tomatillo be left to ripen on the counter?

 

Thanks for any help!

 

 


 ... Shel


 

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As soon as they are the size of large marbles and the skin is opaque, they can be used.  I generally pick them when the fruits almost fill the outer "skin" . 


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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If I can run this past you please...sometimes the inner fruit doesn't fill the outer skin by a long shot.  Are these one good too...as long as the outer skin is opaque?

 

What about the outer skin becoming tan?  I thought that this is when you harvested them?  And not before...  The ones in the store in Utah all have tan skins. 

 

I grow them at home in Ontario and am never sure when I can use them... Thanks, Andie

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Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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Per wiki, easily found by googling tomatillo:

 

The tomatillo fruit is surrounded by an inedible, paper-like husk formed from the calyx. As the fruit matures, it fills the husk and can split it open by harvest. The husk turns brown, and the fruit can be several colors when ripe, including yellow, red, green, or even purple. The freshness and greenness of the husk are quality criteria.

As a matter of fact, easily found when searching eGullet, which is done by, ummm, using the search box.


Edited by weinoo (log)
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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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If I can run this past you please...sometimes the inner fruit doesn't fill the outer skin by a long shot.  Are these one good too...as long as the outer skin is opaque?

 

What about the outer skin becoming tan?  I thought that this is when you harvested them?  And not before...  The ones in the store in Utah all have tan skins. 

 

I grow them at home in Ontario and am never sure when I can use them... Thanks, Andie


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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As soon as they are the size of large marbles and the skin is opaque, they can be used.  I generally pick them when the fruits almost fill the outer "skin" . 


Edited by SusieQ (log)

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Wow, I've never seen one the size of a large marble. They're all at least the size of a golf ball.  Baseballs even.  : )

 

There are several varieties of tomatillo, and some are quite small.  Yesterday, when purchasing a few pounds of the more typical tomatillo, I saw in the bin next to them some very small ones, the size of a large marble.  The sign indicated that they were a different variety.

 

https://www.google.com/search?q=tomatillo+varieties+pictures&biw=1366&bih=620&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=xV--VLfXMc76ggSM9YHABg&sqi=2&ved=0CB0QsAQ

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 ... Shel


 

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Yes, the variety of tomatillos matters, some stay very small.  My rule of thumb is to let them grow to fill their husk, ideally letting the husk split a bit. Sometimes the husk will start turning tan, which is fine, but I don't wait for that when they're on the vine and getting big.

 

The plants are hardy and in the northeast US grow well into the fall.  When the weather starts getting cold, I pick them regardless of size, rather than lose them to frost.

 

For the green varieties, once they turn yellow they're overripe, and their flavor is more sweet than tart.  As long as they're still firm, I'll use them, but always mixing them with green tomatillos.

 

I've found that tomatillos picked when green keep a long time on the counter. Once picked, the husk will dry out and turn tan, but that doesn't affect the flavor of the fruit if they're still firm and unblemished.

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The replies given above are great.  Answers to my ongoing confusion.  Glad Shel_B asked.  Thanks, eGers.

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Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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There are several varieties of tomatillo, and some are quite small.  Yesterday, when purchasing a few pounds of the more typical tomatillo, I saw in the bin next to them some very small ones, the size of a large marble.  The sign indicated that they were a different variety.

 

https://www.google.com/search?q=tomatillo+varieties+pictures&biw=1366&bih=620&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=xV--VLfXMc76ggSM9YHABg&sqi=2&ved=0CB0QsAQ

I have grown several varieties - some get very large - one plant that "volunteered" next to the compost pile produced a 2-pound fruit and I have a photo somewhere.

 

These make great container plants - need a deep pot - 5-gallong is optimal and you need at least TWO plants as they are open polinated.  I generally grow ten plants as that about covers my needs and allows for extras to trade with neighbors for their produce.

 

The purple variety seem to produce smaller fruits but more of them - they range in color from a reddish purple with green stripes to almost black. 

As I mentioned earlier, I pick off some of the fruits to encourage the others to grow larger.  I "store" them in wire colanders (I have several just for this purpose) and they will keep for weeks, need no refrigeration, no special care but keep them in a dry area.

 

For many years I had neighbors from Mexico who coached me in the way to grow and use these fruits as well as peppers, etc.   And in fact my "green sauce" recipe, detailed on my blog, is from them but I have used an oven for roasting, instead of over an open fire on a huge comal.  And I used a food processor instead of mortar and pestle. 


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Having grown tomatillos in Colorado at an altitude of 7200 feet, I can vouch for the fact that will grow pretty much everywhere. I planted a short row and by the time I was sick of them they had produced an incredible amount of fruit. The rule of thumb I used was to let the fruit fill out the husk before harvesting. That way they have the maximum amount of sugars in the fruit. I also recommend cutting off the flowering tops toward the end of the growing season so as to let the fruit already set on the plant mature. It's the same thing i did with tomatoes to save the energy in the plant. No need to set fruit if it's not going to finish.

 

However, here in México, people tell me that they think the smallest fruits have the most flavor. I don't see the really big ones here--they range from grape sized to slightly larger than a golf ball. The ones I grew in Colorado were larger than that, and I can't say that I notice a big difference in flavor. The purple variety is local to México, I think. One of the things I appreciate about tomatillos is that they haven't been bred into uniformity. So when you get some that are kinda purple, it means that this shares some genetics with the Mexican strain.

 

They are pretty seedy, though. You can always recognize a tomatillo salsa by the seeds.

 

While a molcajete is traditional, most people in México will opt for the better solution, which is a blender or food processor. Tomatillos are pretty juicy and unless you have a very large molcajete they will squirt all over the place.

 

Have fun with them. It's not always that you have an ingredient with that kind of history.

 

Nancy in Pátzcuaro

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Formerly "Nancy in CO"

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I've seen some that are purple or white, but most are green.


Buen provecho, Panosmex

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Will you fry them in the typical green tomato fashion?

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I make chili verde but with finely chopped pork ... and don't forget the chili lime Cholula hot sauce.

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Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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Just found this long forgotten thread.  So much fun to reread posts I put up so many years ago.

 

A friend, in return for access to our incredible crop of wild grapes, gave me more tomatillos than I can imagine using in the rest of my life.  They are husked, washed (with vinegar added...great idea), drying on two cookie sheets in the garage and then tomorrow they either go into the freezer or are roasted to use up to take up less room in our freezers which are on their way to fall fullness.  Wait till the apples finish ripening in a couple of weeks.  We have another bumper crop like two years ago.  Oh, it's a busy fall season this year.

 

Added:  of course the tomatillos are destined for chile verde, my go-to recipe given to me years ago by the wonderful @andiesenji.  I have the Poblanos...still available in one store only in our nearby city...and now will buy the jalapenos.  

 


Edited by Darienne (log)
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Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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The current issue of Cook's Illustrated has a recipe for chile verde that actually looks pretty good.  I'm not sure I've ever seen a tomatillo, let alone tried to cook with one.

 

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Treat them like a very fleshy tomato.  Same family as the husk (or ground) cherry (or gooseberry).

 

One can buzz them up with cilantro, lime and chili of ones choosing for a quick raw salsa.

 

They are also fantastic sliced thin into salads.

 

My preference is to roast them and create additional flavour profiles.  Typically with onion, garlic, some chili and then zipped to make a very creamy salsa (a reaction occurs when these things get cooked and they are able to produce very creamy blends).

 

 

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