I guess tomatillos are at the top of my list of the best things I’ve learned since tackling Mexican cooking. These little green gems bring a slightly tart, bright flavor to Salsa Verde, and to a whole world of recipes for soups, salsas, and moles. They are often paired with roasted pumpkin seeds to make “pipian”. Along with the juice of limes, they are best friend to the mellow avacado.
Tomatillos are not tomatoes at all, although they are in the Nightshade family. They are more closely related to gooseberries, for what that is worth. The plant is native to Mexico. The vining plants are easy to grow, and the fruits dangle like pretty little papery lanterns.
Those paper husks are the most distinctive thing about tomatillos, and maybe the thing that gives the shopper pause when they show up in the grocer’s bin. I look for medium sized tomatillos, preferably ones where the husk is slightly open at the lower end, so that I can see bright green color and firm fruit. Avoid pale fruit, and especially fruit that looks wrinkled or shriveled. And who says you can’t open the husk to make sure the fruit is good? (You are allowed to do it with corn on the cob!). In Mexico, tomatillos are sometimes sold already husked, but I haven’t see this in the US.
You can store tomatillos in their husks as you would onions. When I get tomatillos home, I usually remove the husks and wash them. There is often a little dirt or sticky stuff inside the husk. Once dry, I have found I can store the peeled tomatillos in the refrigerator for a week or more.
Here are the same ingredients after ten or fifteen minutes under the broiler. Notice that the tomatillos have changed to a olive green color. They can go into a blender at this point, along with the chilis (peeled and seeded) and some onions, garlic, lime juice, and salt to make a great salsa.
It’s also possible to cook tomatillos in water along with other salsa ingredients.
and to process them into a salsa using the traditional molcajete, or stone mortar and pestle.