Tomatillos (tohm-ah-TEE-oh) are small fruits, used as a vegetable, enclosed in a husk. The fruit resembles a small unripe tomato and is usually green or yellow.
The yellow color indicates ripeness, but tomatillos are most often used when they are still green. Green tomatillos are firmer and easier to slice. The husk that holds the fruit is paper-like and is light brown. The flesh is slightly acidic with a hint of lemon.
Tomatillos also are known as husk tomatoes, tomato verde, miltomates, Mexican green tomatoes, jamberberries and strawberry tomatoes. They are members of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family, as are tomato, potato, eggplant and pepper.
The Aztecs first grew tomatillos as far back as 800 B.C. and they have been popular in Mexico and other Latin American countries for many years. As a traditional part of Mexican cooking, tomatillos are found in stews, moles and salsas.
Nutrition: A one-half cup serving of raw tomatillos has only 20 calories yet provides 15 percent daily value of Vitamin C and one gram of fiber.
Selection: The condition of the husk is often a good indicator when selecting tomatillos. If the husk is dry or shriveled then the fruit is probably not in good condition. Select tomatillos that have an intact, tight-fitting, light brown husk. If you peel back a small part of the husk, the fruit should be firm and free of blemishes.
Canned tomatillos are available at specialty markets and are often used when making sauces. Tomatillos are available year-round in supermarkets and specialty markets. Domestically grown tomatillos are available from May through November.
Storage: Fresh tomatillos with the husk still intact may be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. They are best stored in a paper bag. Tomatillos last a week longer in the refrigerator if the husks are removed and the fruit is placed in sealed plastic bags. Tomatillos may also be frozen after removing the husks.
Preparation: The husks must be removed before preparing, but tomatillos in the husk often are used as decoration. Wash the fruit with soap and water to remove the film left by the husk.
Tomatillos may be used raw in salsas or salads or cooked for sauces. Cooking enhances the flavor and softens its skin, but the result is a soupy consistency since the fruit collapses after a few minutes.
n Slice tomatillos into salsa to add color and flavor.
n Add diced tomatillo to guacamole for an extra crunch.
n Top tacos with sliced tomatillos for a change.
n Liven up your soup with some chopped tomatillos.
n Top black or pinto beans with tomatillo salsa.
For safe and delicious tomatillo salsa or taco sauce recipes go here, click on can on the left, next click on salsa for five different university tested recipes.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Iowa State Cooperative Extension Service
Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290. Her Around the Home column appears Wednesdays.