Now that we have rounded the corner to spring (please, oh please!), it is time to start planning the garden. Growing tomatillos is really easy and rewarding. They are very hardy, productive plants and I’ve been able to harvest fruits even after several frosts. The “lanterns” are magical, making for a beautiful addition to your garden.
Make sure to plant at leat 3 plants as they need to properly pollinate in order to bear fruit. Tomatillos are related to the gooseberry and not tomatoes, but they are in the night shade family. Green tomatillos are tart and slightly sour while the redder and purple varieities are slightly sweeter. They contain large amounts of pectin and water.
Cooking with tomatillos is easy. My favorite recipe for raw tomatillo salsa is a staple in our house.
Raw Tomatillo Salsa
3 to 6 large, bright green tomatillos
1 to 2 small cloves garlic
1 small jalapeño or Fresno chile
several sprigs of fresh cilantro
pinch ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
a touch of olive oil
Pull the husks off the tomatillos and rinse them under warm water. They have a sappy coating that comes off easily. Place the tomatillos in the bowl of a food processor. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth and evenly blended together. Adjust seasonings. Serve with chips or spooned over grilled meats and seafood.
Back in the 1980’s my mother and stepfather rented a house in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I had my first taste of tomatillo salsa there. Patricia Quintana offers the best recipe in her Taste of Mexico Cookbook. My copy is dog-eared as it is my go to book for Mexican inspiration. This salsa is really excellent on steak but is also good with grilled chicken.
Cooked Tomatillo Salsa
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 chipotle chiles from a can of chiles in adobo
1 medium white onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. ancho chili powder
25 fresh tomatillos (canned work as well)
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Heat the oil in a large pot. Fry the chiles briefly. Transfer the chiles to a plate. Add the onions, garlic and acho chili powder, stir around in the oil. Add the tomatillos and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool for a few minutes before pouring into a blender or food processor. Add the cilantro and chilies back in and puree until smooth. Taste and add salt as needed.
This sauce will last for over a week in the fridge and it does taste better the next day. It can also be frozen. Serve it with chips or stir it into beans.