Tomatillos


TomatillosThe tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica) also known as Mexican husk tomato, tomate or tomatito verde and pronounced [toh-MAH-tee-YO] is a staple of Mexican cuisine and it is believed that the Aztecs have used the fruit since at least 800BC.
Like tomatoes, tomatillos are a member of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family, but are more closely related to the Cape gooseberry and ground cherry with which they share a similar structure. The fruits of tomatillos, Cape gooseberries and ground cherries are all wrapped a papery husk which when removed leaves a fruit with a slight stickiness.

Tomatillos have a tart citrusy flavour and range in size from that of a cherry tomato to a medium-sized tomato. They are the base to most Mexican green sauces to which they give their characteristic tart flavour.

In Mexico, tomatillos are also used medicinally where a concoction made of the flower calyces is used to treat diabetes and fruit is used as a remedy for fever.

 

 

Availability: The Chef’s Garden @ Epicurean is one of only a few commercial growers of tomatillos in New Zealand and they are available from high summer (February) to early autumn.

Goes with: All things Mexican.

SELECTION, STORAGE, PREPARATION & USING

  • Selection: Look for dry, firm bright-green fruit that fill the husks which should be mostly intact – a few splits in the husks is fine, but they should not be removed. As they ripe and mature the fruits become yellow and the flavour intensifies – Mexican food authority Rick Bayless prefers the yellow fruit for its richer flavour but warns the resulting sauce will be brownish in colour rather than a fresh green.
  • Storage: Tomatillos in good condition will keep for several weeks in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. Do not remove the husks before storage.
    For out-of-season use, cooked tomatillos can be frozen – remove husks and place in a saucepan with water to just cover, bring to simmering and simmer until just beginning to soften, take care they do not become mushy. Cool and freeze in the cooking liquid.
    Alternatively, the husks can be removed, fruit washed and frozen whole – store frozen fruit in sealed containers or freezer bags and remove required quantity as required.
  • Preparation: Remove and discard the papery husk, then rinse to remove the sticky coating on the fruit and dry. The easiest way to remove the husk is tear at the base then pull up and twist to remove both the husk and stem.
  • Using: Traditionally cooked, tomatillos can also be used raw. When used raw and chopped or diced they add a freshness to salads, guacamole, salsas and sandwich fillings.
    • Salsa Verde Cruda (Fresh Green Tomatillo Sauce): Place 6 (250g) prepared tomatillos in a saucepan and pour over water to just cover, season with salt, bring to simmering and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until just tender. Drain and reserve cooking liquid. Place tomatillos in a food processor or blender, add 1-2 chopped serrano or jalapeño chillies, a handful of chopped fresh coriander and 1 small chopped onion and process to make a coarse purée. Thin to desired consistency with reserved cooking liquid and season to taste with salt. Allow to stand for 30 minutes before serving. Makes about 1½ cups.
    • Guacamole with Tomatillos: Place 6 (250g) prepared tomatillos in a saucepan and pour over water to just cover, season with salt, bring to simmering and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until just tender. Drain. Place tomatillos in a food processor or blender, add 1-2 seeded and chopped serrano or jalapeño chillies, a handful of chopped fresh coriander and 1 small chopped onion and process to make a coarse purée. Place the flesh of 1 medium to large avocado in a bowl and mash until smooth, add tomatillo purée and mix to combine. Season to taste with salt. Makes about 2 cups.

Recipes Using Tomatillos

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