Tomatillos are ready to harvest when the papery husk surrounding the fruit turns from green to tan and begins to split.
Tomatillos are ready to harvest 75 to 100 days after sowing, 65 to 85 days from transplanting.
- When to Harvest Tomatillos
- How to Harvest Tomatillos
- How to Store Tomatillos
- Campbell´s Nutrition & Wellness
- What the Heck Are Tomatillos?
- Food Articles, News & Features Section
- Harvesting Tomatillo Fruits: How And When To Harvest Tomatillos
- Growing Tomatillos
- How to Tell if a Tomatillo is Ripe
- How to Use Tomatillos
- 5 FAQs About Harvesting Tomatillos
- Knowing When To Harvest Tomatillos While Being Ripe
- How To Grow Tomatillos
- How To Tell When A Tomatillo Is Ripe
- When To Harvest Tomatillos
- Final Thoughts
- Grow and Save Tomatillo Seeds
- How to Grow Tomatillos
- How to Save Tomatillo Seeds
When to Harvest Tomatillos
- Tomatillos are ready to harvest when the papery husk surrounding the fruit turns from green to tan and begins to split; the fruit itself will be bright green, purple, or yellow depending on the variety.
- A mature tomatillo will be the size of a cherry tomato or slightly larger. Smaller fruit is often sweeter than larger fruit.
- Plants bear fruit for 1 to 2 months or until the first frost.
- Pick fruit at 7- to 14-day intervals to keep the plant producing.
- One tomatillo plant can produce 60 to 200 fruits in a growing season, about 2½ pounds per plant.
- Tomatillos will be past ripe when the gloss of the fruit dulls.
Tomatillos will separate from the vine with a light twist.
How to Harvest Tomatillos
- Harvest tomatillos by giving fruits a light twist or snipping them from the plant with a garden pruner or scissors.
- Peel back a small part of the husk, the fruit should be nearly blemished free. If the fruit is sticky when you remove the husk just wash it with mild soapy water.
Store tomatillos in their husks for about two weeks in a paper bag in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator.
How to Store Tomatillos
- Tomatillos are best used fresh and green. They are less juicy and more richly flavored than a tomato. Raw tomatillos have a zesty, tart flavor that develops an herbal lemon flavor when cooked.
- Store tomatillos in their husks for about two weeks in a paper bag in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator (55° to 60°F/12°15°C and 85 to 90 percent humidity). Tomatillos will suffer chilling injury if stored below 41°F (5°C).
- Do not store tomatillos with apples or bananas which give off a natural gas called ethylene; ethylene will cause tomatillos to darken in storage.
- Tomatillos can be frozen or canned for later use. To freeze tomatillos, remove the husk, wash the fruit, and freeze them whole in a freezer container or bag. Double bagging will prevent freezer burn.
Also of interest:
How to Grow Tomatillos.
Tomatillo: Kitchen Basics
Surprise: The essential ingredient in the green salsa recipes of Mexican cuisine is not green tomatoes, but fresh tomatillos — fruit with a citrusy sweet flavor. Dainty paper husks encase the tomatillo, and by late summer, what seems like billions of fruits dangle from the plant’s branches.
Native to Mexico and domesticated by the Aztecs around 800 B.C., the tomatillo is one of our most ancient food bearing plants. Today, gardening gurus can grow seeds of varieties from the same two species the Aztecs grew. Physalis ixocarpa is commonly sold in markets and has large (up to 2 ½-inch-diameter) tart green fruits, which ripen to pale yellow. Physalis philadelphica produces sweeter, marble-size purple fruits. This species is a common field weed grown in Mexico, but the taste is no less delicious.
Choosing A Growing Site
Select a growing area with full sun exposure and well-drained, moderately rich soil. The tomatillo is a lighter feeder than tomatoes, and while they are tough semi-wild plants, they do not fare well in soggy, poorly drained soil. Work a couple inches of compost into the soil before planting seeds, and fork deeply to improve drainage. Raised beds work great for the tomatillo plant if your garden has heavy clay soil.
Related: Cherry Tomatoes: The Easiest Plant You’ll Ever Grow
Start tomatillo seeds indoors six to eight weeks before your last frost date. Harden off indoor-started plants before transplanting outdoors to the garden. Set out at the same time you plant your tomatoes, when all danger of frost is past and the soil is thoroughly warm.
Tomatillos are much like their nightshade family cousin the tomato, in that the plant sprouts roots along the stems, so it profits from being planted deeply in the garden. The indeterminate, sprawling plants grow 3 to 4 feet tall and at least as wide, so space the plants 3 feet apart in rows 3 to 4 feet apart. Plan to give them support in the form of gardening trellises or tomato cages, unless you want to harvest the ripe fruits off the ground. Two to four plants are sufficient for fresh use.
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Tomatillos are hugely prolific and produce nonstop until laid low by frost. Start by applying 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch, such as grass clippings, to suppress weeds and keep the soil moist. Although moderately drought-tolerant, tomatillos do best with an inch or so of water per week. If space is limited, pinch off the growing tips to control spread. Fertilizer is not needed.
Related: The 1 Thing In Your Garden You’re Not Paying Enough Attention To
Gardening master’s tip
When frost threatens, pull up your tomatillo plants and hang them upside down in an unheated garage. The tomatillo fruits will keep for at least a couple of months.
You’ll be preparing your first organic salsa verde about 75 to 100 days after transplanting seedlings. Harvest tomatillos when they fill out their husks and the husks just begin to split. If the fruits feel like mini marbles inside loose husks, wait awhile, but harvest before they turn pale yellow, as they become seedier and their flavor loses the desired tanginess as they ripen. Store harvested tomatillos in their husks at room temperature for up to a week or in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
Harvest all your ripe tomatillos to prevent a forest of self-sown seedlings next year. Consign overripe and rotten tomatillo fruits to your hot compost heap.
Related: How To Grow Organically On A Budget
Toma Verde is the standard large-fruited tomatillo variety, with golf-ball-size, tart green fruits. They’re ready extra early, at 60 days from transplanting.
Purple tomatillo varieties have small, intensely purple fruits and green husks. They’re highly decorative and long-storing and are ready at 65 days from transplant. This variety grows particularly well in a container.
Though the tomatillo seems like some exotic vegetable, they are popular with beginner gardeners, because they rarely suffer disease or insect pest problems. Cage the plants off the ground to allow air to circulate—which protects them from diseases, such as early blight—and to keep them out of reach of slugs and snails. The tomatillo plants aren’t as heavy as tomato plants, and the undersize wire cages typically sold for tomatoes work fine for supporting tomatillos.
Tomatillos are not self-pollinating like their tomato cousins. In order for the tomatillo flowers to set fruit, you must grow at least two plants. Otherwise, you’ll be left with lots of pretty little yellow flowers and none of the tasty green edible fruit.
Related: How To Grow Ground Cherries
Preparing tomatillos for cooking or storage is easy. Just remove the papery husks and wash the sticky fruits inside. Tomatillos need no coring or seeding before being incorporated into your favorite recipe. To freeze, simply place washed, dry tomatillos in freezer bags and seal. Although tomatillos are usually cooked, they can also be eaten raw. Garden fresh tomatillos add zest and unique flavor to hot sauces, salsas, and dips. Break out your favorite Mexican cookbook and try some new recipes, or use these ideas as inspiration.
Guacamole Light Recipe
Make a lower calorie guacamole by replacing half the avocado with chopped raw tomatillos.
Smoky Grilled Tomatillo Salsa Recipe
Roast a large unpeeled onion, five unpeeled garlic cloves, two to five chile peppers (such as serrano, poblano, or anaheim), and 1 pound tomatillos on a charcoal grill until charred and soft. Peel the onion, garlic, and peppers and cut into chunks. Pulse all ingredients briefly in a food processor along with sea salt, a handful of cilantro, and a generous squirt of fresh lime juice. Serve with chips or use to top your favorite chicken tacos.
Related Recipe: Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Crisp Fried Tomatillos Recipe
Even better than a fried green tomato! Halve the fruits. Beat an egg with a ½ cup of milk. Prepare a shallow bowl of seasoned flour and another of cornmeal. Toss the fruits first in flour, then in the egg mixture, then roll in cornmeal. Fry in olive oil in a nonstick skillet until crisp and golden. Serve on top of a salad, or as a garnish for a soup. Or just snack on them while out in the garden.
Green Rice Recipe
Puree 2½ cups raw tomatillos with ten cilantro sprigs. Measure 2 cups of this puree. In a medium saucepan, sautée a finely chopped small onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft. Add 1 cup rice and cook, stirring, five minutes longer. Add the puree and 1 teaspoon salt, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook 20 to 30 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed.
Related: 9 Spicy Fruit Salsas You’ll Want To Eat All Summer Long
Terrific Trio Recipe
Combine tomatillos, cilantro, and onion for a classic salsa combo.
Campbell´s Nutrition & Wellness
Featured Vegetable: Tomatillo
So, what exactly is a tomatillo? Meaning “little tomato” in Spanish, tomatillos are small vegetables that resemble green tomatoes. One of the most distinguishing characteristics of a tomatillo is the papery husk that surrounds the fruit. That’s right, tomatillos, just like their distant relatives, tomatoes, are actually fruits! When it comes to the culinary world though, they are traditionally used as vegetables.
Native to Mexico, the tart lemony flavor of tomatillos adds a unique tang to moles, salsas, and stews that are popular in Mexican cuisine. They can be chopped raw for salads, guacamole, or gazpacho, but are typically cooked in order to soften the skin and enhance their flavor in dishes. Perhaps the most notable use of tomatillos is in salsa verde (green salsa), which is a zesty twist on the classic red variety. Not only do these vegetables bring flavor to dishes, but one ½-cup of fresh chopped tomatillos provides a good source of vitamin C for only 21 calories.
Unlike most vegetables, tomatillos actually lose flavor as they ripen. How can you tell if a tomatillo is past its prime? The green skin of the fruit will turn yellow or purple. Another indication of better flavor is smaller size, no bigger than a golf ball. Be sure to choose tomatillos that are dry and firm with a tightly fitting, supple husk. When you prepare them, remove the husks and wash off any sticky residue from the skin, which comes off easily under running water.
You can store tomatillos in the refrigerator for about 2-3 weeks, either loose or in the vegetable crisper. If you can’t find fresh tomatillos, look for the canned form, which have already been cooked and softened.
Not sure what you want to make with these uniquely tangy “veggies”? Start off with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa, and serve it over grilled chicken, fish, enchiladas, or even omelets. If you’re short on time, a tasty alternative to use is Pace® Salsa Verde, which is a convenient way to add a tangy kick to dishes. Check out some of these great recipes from Campbell’s Kitchen®:
Grilled Tomatillo Tuna Steaks
Salsa Verde Chicken Wraps
Salsa Verde Corn & Bean Salad
Salsa Verde Tilapia
Salsa Verde Vinaigrette
What the Heck Are Tomatillos?
What Are Tomatillos?
Tomatillos are small, round fruits resembling little tomatoes bearing a papery outer covering. They are members of the nightshade family, along with tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Though they are usually green, they can ripen to be any number of other colors, including yellow, purple, and red.
Tomatillos grow throughout the Western Hemisphere, and are a popular staple food in Mexico, where they are often called “tomato verde” or “green tomatoes” (not to be confused with American “green tomatoes,” which are simply unripe tomatoes). Other names include husk tomato, husk cherry, Mexican tomato, jamberry, and ground cherry.
Nutritionally, tomatillos are low in calories and rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, niacin, potassium, manganese, and healthy omega 6 fatty acids.
Green tomatillos usually have a slightly tart flavor, though other colors can be sweet enough to be used in jams. They can be eaten raw, either whole or chopped into salads, and are most popularly used to make a spicy green salsa (salsa verde) and other sauces.
Here are a few tomatillo recipes to help you get to know these “little tomatoes”:
Salsa Verde Recipe
1 pound tomatillos, husked
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 chili pepper, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 cups water
Place tomatillos, onion, garlic, and chili pepper into a medium saucepan. Season with cilantro, oregano, cumin, and salt; pour in water. Bring this mixture to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the tomatillos are soft, about 15 minutes. Using a blender, purée the tomatillos and water in batches until smooth.
Tomatillo Chicken Soup
2 whole chicken breasts, skinless
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound tomatillos, husked and quartered
1 Russet potato, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 chili peppers, stemmed and seeded
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
Kosher salt and ground peppercorns to taste
1/4 cup sour cream
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
In a large pot over medium heat, add chicken, onion, garlic, tomatillos, potato, oregano, chili pepper, chicken stock, and water; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken is tender and the meat falls from the bone, about 30 minutes. Remove chicken from the pot set aside to cool. Once the chicken has cooled, remove the bones and shred. Remove the soup pot from the heat and let the vegetables and broth cool slightly. Purée the vegetable and broth in batches in a blender. To serve, spoon a small amount of shredded chicken into soup bowls and pour over it. Top with sour cream and cilantro.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. fresh tomatillos, husked
2 green peppers, halved and seeded
5 scallions, chopped
2 green chilies, roasted, seeded, and chopped
1 garlic clove, roasted
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 cup vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Set aside two tomatillos, 1/2 green pepper, and two scallions. Chop the remaining tomatillos, scallions, and peppers. In a food processor, purée the chopped vegetables, garlic, and lime juice until smooth. Add vegetable stock and season to taste with salt, pepper, and sugar. Dice and add in the reserved vegetables. Top with cilantro and yogurt.
Food Articles, News & Features Section
Tomatillos 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 belong to the same family as tomatoes.
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. In the US, they are mainly grown in Texas.
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.
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.
The husks must be removed before preparing, but tomatillos in the husk are often 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.
Make Tomatillos Part of Your 5 A Day Plan
– Slice tomatillos into salsa to add color and flavor.
– Add diced tomatillo to guacamole for an extra crunch.
– Top tacos with sliced tomatillos for a change.
– Liven up your soup with some chopped tomatillos.
Serving size 1 medium (34g)
Amounts Per Serving – % Daily Value*
Calories from Fat 5
Total Fat 0g – 0%
Saturated Fat 0g – 0%
Cholesterol 0mg – 0%
Sodium 0mg – 0%
Total Carbohydrate 2g – 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g – 4%
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet
Harvesting Tomatillo Fruits: How And When To Harvest Tomatillos
Tomatillos are related to tomatoes, which are in the Nightshade family. They are similar in shape but are ripe when green, yellow or purple and have a husk around the fruit. The fruits are borne on warm season plants, from inside the husk. You can tell when to pick a tomatillo by watching for the husk to burst. Growing and harvesting tomatillo fruits will enhance your culinary range and provide nutrients and variety to your diet.
Plant tomatillos from seed in warmer climates or start them indoors six weeks before the last expected frost. Tomatillo harvesting typically begins 75 to 100 days after planting.
Choose a full sun location with well drained soil. The plants require even moisture, especially after fruits begin to form. Cultivation of tomatillos is similar to that of tomato plants.
The plants need a cage or heavy staking to prevent the laden stems from laying on the ground.
How to Tell if a Tomatillo is Ripe
Cultivation in the United States of the
plant only began in the 1980s. The relative newness of the plant means it is unknown to many gardeners. If this is your first time growing the fruit, you may wonder how to tell if a tomatillo is ripe.
The color of the fruit isn’t a good indicator because each variety matures to a different hue. The early green fruits have the most tang and flavor and mellow out as they age. The best indicator for when to pick a tomatillo is the husk. Fully ripe tomatillos will be firm and the fruit turns yellow or purple.
Tomatillo harvesting is best when the fruits are green because they contain the most flavor. It’s important to know how to harvest tomatillos to enhance continued fruiting. Choose fruits that have burst their husk and have no signs of disease, mold or insect damage. Remove and compost any damaged fruits. Cut the fruits off the plant to avoid harming the stems and other fruit.
Harvesting tomatillo fruits is best done in the morning from mid-summer well into fall. To know when to pick a tomatillo, watch the husk on the outside. The plant produces papery shells and the fruit grows to fill the husk.
As soon as the dry exterior splits, it is time for tomatillo harvesting. Once you know when to harvest tomatillos you’ll need to decide how to use them. Tomatillos store well in a cool, dry location. They can hold for several weeks in this manner. For longer storage, can or freeze the fruits.
How to Use Tomatillos
Tomatillos are slightly more acidic and citrusy than tomatoes, but can be substituted in dishes where you use the juicy, red fruits. Tomatillos make a delightful pureed sauce to pour over enchiladas. They are excellent fresh in salads or make a “sopa verda.”
Each medium sized tomatillo has only 11 calories and 4 milligrams of Vitamin C, so why not try growing tomatillos in your garden as part of a healthy diet.
Quick Guide to Growing Tomatillos
- Plant tomatillos in pairs during spring once all chances of frost have passed. Planting 2 or more at a time ensures the blooms will be pollinated.
- When planting, bury 2/3 of the plant (as you would with a tomato plant), then set a stake or trellis for seedlings to climb. Space them 3 feet apart in a sunny location with fertile, well-drained soil.
- Before planting, give your native soil a nutrient boost by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter.
- Water tomatillos at the base and be sure they get 1 to 1.5 inches of water weekly.
- Give your growing plants plenty of nutrients to thrive by fertilizing with a continuous-release plant food regularly.
- Harvest tomatillos once they reach their ideal green color and have filled out the husk.
Soil, Planting, and Care
Tomatillos grow in the summer garden just like their relatives: tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. In fact, the leaves look a little like the foliage of eggplant, but the fruit is like no other.
You will need two or more tomatillo plants for the blooms to be pollinated and fruit to be produced. Plan for each plant to produce about a pound of fruit over the season. However, most recipes call for ½ pound to make a sauce, so plan to grow a minimum of 2 to 3 plants to have enough fruit ready to eat at one time. You may need more if you like them a lot. To help get you to a big harvest faster, plant strong young tomatillo plants from Bonnie Plants®, the company that has been helping home gardeners grow lots of produce for over 100 years.
Set plants in the garden in spring after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has begun to warm. Choose a sunny location, and enrich the soil with compost or aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil to improve soil nutrition and texture. You can set plants deep like you would a tomato, burying nearly 2/3 of the plant. Space plants about 3 feet apart with a trellis or cage to support them as they grow. Treat tomatillos as you would tomatoes, keeping the soil evenly moist. Mulch will help conserve moisture while keeping down weeds. For best growth, complement the nutritious start and excellent root environment of great soil with regular helpings of a continuous-release plant food like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition Granules. It feeds both your plants and the beneficial microbes in the soil for up to 6 weeks. (Be sure to follow the label directions.)
Have you seen those greenish-purple fruits covered in papery husks and resembling small tomatoes at your local farmers market? Or maybe a plant resembling a tomato plant has popped up in your garden, with delicate husks that look like Chinese lanterns forming from its flowers. These Mexican fruits are called tomatillos, or husk tomatoes, that belong the Nightshade family alongside peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes. A staple of Mexican cuisine, tomate verde (as it is known in its native country) can be found in moles, salsas and even fresh salads. Learn how to harvest or pick out, store and enjoy this season’s delicious tomatillos with our short guide.
5 FAQs About Harvesting Tomatillos
1. What Do Ripe Tomatillos Look Like?
Tomatillo plants are rather bushy, with stems that are more delicate than those of tomato or pepper plants. They grow to a height of 3-4 feet and bear a fruiting structure that resembles a Chinese lantern. The tomatillo grows inside this ‘lantern’ and becomes ripe once it has filled the husk and begins turning yellowish-green. Purple tomatillos will turn a deep purple color when ripe, although the husk also begins to yellow. Ripe tomatillos are also firmer than tomatoes, and should be discarded if they’re turning soft or have split.
2. When Should I Harvest (or Buy) Tomatillos?
Tomatillos are ready for harvest 75 to 100 days after transplanting them into the garden. This means that they are generally harvested from August to October, depending on the climate in your particular area. The size of the fruit will depend on the cultivar, though a tomatillo is usually 1-2 inches in diameter. It is recommended to harvest the fruits when the husks have turned from a bright green to a tan color, and the fruit is a pale green. The same goes when choosing tomatillos at the market or grocery store.
3. How Should I Harvest Tomatillos?
Tomatillos can easily be harvested by hand and placed in a shallow basket or container. Make sure not to pile the tomatillos too high in the container, as the ones on the bottom will be crushed under the weight. Tomatillos often fall over from the weight of their fruit, so be careful not to crush the fruit with your feet whilst working in the rows.
4. How Should I Store Tomatillos?
It’s best to store tomatillos in their husks in a paper bag or other aerated container. Keep them in a cool environment like the refrigerator or garage. The husks act as a protective shell and much like the stem of a tomato, keep rot and moisture from entering at the top of the fruit. Tomatillos can keep this way for up to a month.
5. How Do I Eat Tomatillos?
Tomatillos have a tangy flavor that’s like a cross between a lemon, pineapple and raw potato. They lose a bit of their astringent flavor when cooked, which makes them perfect for moles, stews, and roasted salsas. Tomatillos are also a nice addition to a salsa fresca or a salad if finely chopped and added in small quantities. To prepare tomatillos for cooking, remove the husks and wash them to remove the sticky residue on the fruit’s surface. Use a cast iron pan to roast your tomatillos and you’ll get a lovely, caramelized flavor out of these wonderful green tomatoes.
Related on Organic Authority:
Get Saucy! Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Recipe
Spice Up Your Cinco de Mayo: 10 Mexican- Inspired Vegetarian RecipesMeatless Monday Roundup: 4 Mexican Recipes
Knowing When To Harvest Tomatillos While Being Ripe
Relatives of the most common tomatoes, tomatillos have their origins in Mexico, are smaller than their cousins and have a green or purple skin when mature.
Tomatillos also have a distinctive taste, that resembles the taste of bell peppers with a citrus hint rather than the taste of green tomatoes.
Used for many healthy and tasty dishes, tomatillos are becoming more and more popular all over the world. But since their maturity status determines their final use, determining when to harvest tomatillos is a must. So, let’s find out more about how to grow and harvest this delicious veggie.
How To Grow Tomatillos
Tomatillos have a long growing period, and the crops are usually started indoors in clay pots. Typically, if you intend to transfer the crops outdoors, you should plant the seeds in clay pots about six weeks before the final spring frost.
Once outside, tomatillos should be transferred in a well-drained, fertile soil and planted at distances of about 25 inches apart. The soil should be warm enough to promote germination and you should also keep in mind that the plants will need about eight hours of direct sunlight per day.
Tomatillo plants have a high yield, one plant producing in average one and a half to two pounds of fruits throughout the season.
Since most recipes require about half a pound of tomatillos, and since you will need a minimum of two plants to ensure the pollination of the blooms, you should consider growing at least three-four tomatillos plants per season.
How To Tell When A Tomatillo Is Ripe
Tomatillo fruits develop inside “hoods”, namely green, yellow or purple husks that change color based on the variety of the plant.
In the case of the tomatillos, the color is usually not a maturity indicator. Therefore, you will have to check the above-mentioned husk to determine if the fruit is ripe or not.
If the husks are split open, regardless of their color, the tomatillos are ripe and ready to be harvested. However, even if the husks are not split, if they turned brown and have a papery look, then the tomatillos are also ripe.
When To Harvest Tomatillos
Tomatillos should be harvested after 75-100 days from sowing, which usually means from late July onwards. If you want to maintain the production of the plant throughout the season, harvest tomatillo fruits at intervals of 7-10 days.
Tomatillos should be harvested before being fully ripe. The reason of this is simple, green tomatillos have a tart, zesty flavor that is needed for the preparation of tomatillo salsas and soups. Fully ripe tomatillos are sweeter and are more suitable for the preparation of jams.
The best time to harvest tomatillo fruits is early in the morning. To determine when to harvest tomatillos, you should follow the next easy steps.
1. Record the date when tomatillo plants sowed and count 75 days from that date. If you didn’t register that date, you can record the date when you transplanted the tomatillos and count about 65 days.
2. Check the husks regularly as soon as you notice the fruits. As soon as the husks turn brown and get a papery texture it is time to harvest. If the husk splits and you can see a part of the fruit, you should harvest regardless of the color of the husk.
3. You can either pluck the fruits from the plants with your hands or use a garden pruner to harvest the fruits.
Once harvested, tomatillos should be used right away to prepare salsas or green soups. If you want to harvest sweeter tomatillos to prepare jams, wait until the fruit is fully ripe, usually of a green-yellow color.
If you want to preserve tomatillos, you should place them in a cool and dry place, or in the refrigerator, for several weeks or freeze them if you plan to store the fruits for longer periods. Another preservation method is to can them.
If you plan to store tomatillos in a refrigerator, you should keep the husk on the fruits until consumption and put them in a paper bag.
Tomatillos are definitely delicious veggies to grow in your garden or balcony, rich in nutrients and in vitamin C. When to harvest tomatillos is also easy to determine. So why not grow your own crop?
If you have any questions, or if you want to share your experience with us, please leave a comment below.
And don’t forget to record the transplantation date of the plants to know when it’s time to harvest!
Grow and Save Tomatillo Seeds
How to Grow Tomatillos
This sprawling nightshade produces many husk-swaddled fruits. Saving seeds from tomatillo is as easy as saving seeds from tomatoes!
When to Start Indoors
Tomatillo is a frost-sensitive, warm season crop. Sow tomatillo seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last spring frost. Plant tomatillo seeds ¼” deep into small containers full of potting soil.
Time to Germination
When to Transplant Outdoors
Transplant outdoors in a sunny spot after all danger of frost has passed and the soil begins to warm.
Most varieties have a bushy growing habit and require ample space to grow, so space your plants 24 to 48” apart.
Plants may be staked or trellised to keep foliage off the ground and to contain the plants.
Common Pests and Diseases
Tomatillo plants are susceptible to early blight, anthracnose, late blight, and tobacco mosaic virus, among other diseases. Take care to rotate crops in your garden and remove diseased plants promptly.
When and How to Harvest
Tomatillo come in various sizes and colors. All varieties have a netted, papery husk around the fruit that begins to dry when fruits are maturing. Harvest tomatillo when they are firm to the touch but seem to give a little. Ripe fruits will pull easily from the plant.
Tomatillo can be sliced into a fresh salsa, canned as a salsa verde sauce, or pureed to make a sauce for carnitas or tacos. Fruits can also be broiled and pureed with chili peppers for a different take on salsa verde. If you are given a bumper crop of tomatillo, try canning a green salsa at home.
Store tomatillos at room temperature. Fruits will continue to ripen after being picked if they are stored in a warm place.
How to Save Tomatillo Seeds
Recommended Isolation Distance
When saving seeds from tomatillo, separate varieties by 800-1,600 feet.
Recommended Population Sizes
Plant at least 5 tomatillos to ensure viable seed. When maintaining a variety over time, save seeds from between 20-50 plants.
Assessing Seed Maturity
Tomatillo seeds are ripe when the fruit is ready to eat.
To save seeds from tomatillos, squeeze out the pulp and seeds from the inside of the fruit.
Cleaning and Processing
To separate the seeds from the surrounding pulp, seeds and pulp should be fermented. Put the pulp and seeds and a little bit of water in a small container. Leave this container to sit for at least one day. A cap of mold will form on the mixture and good seeds will sink to the bottom. After a few days, skim off the mold and any floating seeds and then add clean water to the mixture. Decant the liquid from the sunken, viable seeds. Repeat this process until most of the pulp is washed away. Pour the seeds into a mesh strainer and give the seeds a final rinse under running water.
Lay the tomatillo seeds out on a screen or coffee filter to dry. Seeds are dry enough for storage when they can be cracked cleanly in half.
Storage and Viability
When stored in a cool, dry place, tomatillo seeds will remain viable for six years.