For those of us who are into our Mexican food, tomatillos are an essential ingredient. Salsa without tomatillo simply isn’t salsa. Distantly related to tomatoes and growing in a similar way, they are much easier to grow than tomatoes, coping with cooler weather, hardier, less prone to disease and somewhat shade tolerant. These are very productive plants, and given you need to have two as they absolutely need a cross pollinator, that will probably be enough for one family. However, the more the merrier and your friends will be happy to share in your largesse.
They grow in a similar manner to tomatoes and can be staked, but can also be left to sprawl, place approximately 1m apart. Unlike tomatoes, they are not heavy feeders so no there is need to fertilise. They also cope with cooler weather than tomatoes and need a shorter growing season, very useful in Melbourrne! If growing from seed make sure you get Physalis philadelphica and not its close relative the Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana). Technically Tomatillos are perennial, but they are generally grown as annuals. Harvest when the fruit has swelled to fill the husk but before fully ripe, when still green (or purple – depending on variety) and firm. The size is similar to a large cherry tomato, but the flesh is meatier. Leave the husks on until ready to use, store in refrigerator for up to 1 month (or freeze). When removing the husks, the fruit is smooth but slightly sticky, wash thoroughly and use.
Toma Verde – A prolific tomatillo with fruit the size of a small tomato. Sweet tangy flavour, fabulous for salsas and other Mexican dishes. Will lose the tangy aspect if allowed to ripen too much.
Tomatillo Purple – Another prolific tomatillo, purple in colour with a sharper flavour than Verde, making a fantastic salsa. An heirloom or heritage variety.