Thursday, August 6, 2015

Vegetable Feature: Tomatillos

by Andrea Yoder

Tomatillo blossom
Tomatillos are an interesting “vegetable,” which are technically a fruit.  While we plant them alongside our tomatoes and they are often referred to as a “green tomato,” they are a bit different.  Tomatillos  grow on massive plants that are similar to a tomato plant, but with more of a wild, vine-y appearance.  Their main stem is thick and sometimes resembles a small tree trunk.  The plants grow over seven feet tall, so we put stakes in between and tie the plants to them progressively as they grow in order to keep the plant upright and the fruit off the ground.  Tomatillos grow from pretty little yellow blossoms which are a favorite food source for bumble bees and other pollinator creatures.  The fruit is hidden inside a husk that looks like a little paper lantern.  You know the tomatillo is ready to pick when it fills the husk completely.  While most tomatillos are green, this year we’re trialing a purple variety that will be dark purple when ripe.  It’s supposed to have a more pronounced, sweet, fruity flavor.  We’re hoping to send some your way in a future delivery.

Tomatillos can be eaten raw or cooked.  They have a mild flavor with a slightly tart and sometimes fruity flavor.  In their raw form they are firm with a dense flesh, but when you cook them they break apart and become more like a sauce.  Before you use them, you need to remove the outer husk which is not edible.  The fruit inside might feel a little sticky, which is normal.  Just give them a quick rinse and you’re ready to go.  Tomatillos are most commonly used in salsa verde, a popular green salsa made with onions, garlic, lime, jalapeños and cilantro.  This salsa can be prepared with either fresh or cooked tomatillos.  If you want to kick the flavor of your salsa up a notch or two, roast the tomatillos and other vegetables on a grill or open flame before you put them into the salsa.  But don’t stop with just salsa, there are a lot of other ways to utilize tomatillos! They can be incorporated into soups, stews and a variety of sauces.  They are also a delicious ingredient in fresh vegetable salsas and salads.  Another tasty preparation is to cut thick slices of tomatillos, bread them and pan-fry them.

Tomatillos growing in the field.

Tomatillos are super-easy to preserve for use in the off-season.  Simply remove the outer husk and wash and dry the fruit.  They can be frozen raw in a freezer bag.  When you’re ready to use them, simply thaw them and use them in soups, stews or cooked salsas.  The texture when thawed will be soft.  We’ll be offering tomatillos as a produce plus item soon!

If you’re looking for some interesting recipe suggestions, check out  In their cooking section they have a “Seasonal Produce Recipe Guide” that features many of the vegetables in your box this week including tomatillos.  It’s a great resource to find some tasty ideas this summer!

Chilled Buttermilk Tomatillo Soup

Recipe featured on in their “Seasonal Produce Recipe Guide” for Summer.

Yield:  4 servings
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium-size onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quarterd
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1 tsp ground cumin, plus a pinch for garnish
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro, plus  
4 sprigs for garnish
1 cup buttermilk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat if the onion begins to brown.
  2. Add the tomatillos, garlic and jalapeño and cook for 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the chicken stock, cumin and cilantro, and cook 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and cool.
  3. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a food processer and puree until smooth. Add the buttermilk, salt and pepper and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator.
  4. Ladle the soup among 4 bowls and garnish each with a cilantro sprig and the cumin.

Tomatillo Dressing

Recipe borrowed from Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop

Yield:  1 cup
4 medium tomatillos, husk removed
1 Tbsp lime juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Wash the tomatillos and cut into quarters.  Place the tomatillos, lime juice and oil in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Use the dressing immediately or refrigerate in a covered container for several days.  Shake well before using.

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