Tomatillo (Toma Verde) Information
By Ronnie Dauber, Garden Guides Contributor
About TomatillosThis annual vegetable is a Mexican favorite and the very core for cooking authentic green salsa sauce.
Site PreparationThe tomatillo grows best in full sun and in a location where it is not crowded but rather open to free air circulation. The soil needs to be well-drained and should be cultivated with plenty of compost and well rotted manure. Avoid excess nitrogen.
Special FeaturesThe tomatillo has the appearance of a small green tomato and bears most of the same growing characteristics. However, there are two main differences between the tomatillo and the tomato: The tomatillo has a papery husk instead of the thin skin of the tomato, and a harder rather than softer flesh. Where the tomato isn't ripe until it turns red, tomatillos are fully ripe just prior to turning red. Once they have changed color, they are overripe and begin to rot.
Choosing a VarietyThe tomatillo is a derivative of the tomato, and this is the actual name for this variety of tomato.
PlantingThe tomatillo seeds can be started indoors about 6 to 8 weeks prior to the last spring frost. Place 2 to 3 seeds in every 1-inch cell and once the seeds germinate, thin them out to 1 seedling per cell. Cover the seeds with Â¼ inch of soil and keep them where the temperature will remain a constant 70 to 80 degrees F. It might be necessary to provide a growing light once the seedlings are developed to prevent the plants from becoming scraggly. When the plants have 2 or 3 sets of leaves, transplant them into larger pots (2 or 3 inch squared). Fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer every 2 weeks starting at half strength and increasing to full strength over the next 6 weeks. Transplant the Tomatillos outdoors only after all danger of the last frost is passed, as they are very susceptible to frost damage. Space the plants 24 to 36 inches apart with rows at least 36 to 48 inches apart.
CareTomatillos require regular feeding during the growing season with compost tea or a well-balanced fertilizer. They require even moisture during the fruit set and development. Avoid excess watering because while it can increase the fruit size, it will decrease the fruit flavor.
Harvest and StoragePick the tomatillo fruit when it is firm and just starting to turn red. If they are left on the vine and begin to change color, they will rot very quickly. The fruit can be used fresh or preserved in salsa sauce.