Tomatillos are small, round, green fruits that are often used in Mexican and Central American cuisine. Along with potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and other members of the nightshade family, tomatillos (also known as husk tomatoes) are annual plants.
Although tomatillo plants are related to tomatoes, they don’t produce juicy fruit. Instead, tomatillos resemble unripe tomatoes in appearance and texture since they are small, spherical, hard, and have a packed interior.
Although some varieties of ripe tomatillos turn yellow or purple, they are typically bright green. The thin, papery husk that develops around the fruit to preserve it while it ripens makes them distinct from other fruits. As a result, they resemble cape gooseberries, often known as ground cherries or husk cherries.
They, however, will never become sweeter like ground cherries or tomatoes, no matter how ripe they become. Instead, they have a tangy, vibrant flavor that resembles limes in certain ways. Tomatillos lose their acidic edge and become a little bit sweeter when they are roasted.
What are Tomatillos?
Despite their name and appearance, tomatillos are not tomatoes but belong to the nightshade family, along with tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. They have a papery husk that surrounds the fruit, which is typically removed before cooking.
Tomatillos have a tart and tangy flavor, adding a unique citrus-like taste to dishes. They are a staple ingredient in many traditional Mexican dishes, particularly in sauces and salsas. Commonly referred to as “tomatillo salsa” or “salsa verde,” these green sauces are made by blending or cooking them with other ingredients such as chili peppers, onions, garlic, and herbs.
When selecting them, choose ones that are firm, bright green, and have a dry, intact husk. Avoid those that are soft or have blemishes on their skin. They can be stored at room temperature for a few days or kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
In addition to their culinary uses, tomatillos are also a source of various vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. They are low in calories and can be a nutritious addition to a balanced diet.
They are incredibly versatile and can be used in a wide range of recipes beyond salsas, such as soups, stews, enchiladas, and salads. Their tartness and distinctive flavor can add brightness and depth to many dishes, offering a unique twist to your culinary creations.
What Does Tomatillos Taste Like?
Tomatillos have a distinct flavor that is often described as tart, tangy, and slightly acidic. They have a unique taste that sets them apart from regular tomatoes. The tartness of tomatillos is reminiscent of citrus fruits, particularly green apples or sour green plums. Some people also detect a hint of sweetness underneath the tartness.
The flavor of tomatillos can vary depending on their level of ripeness. When they are fully ripe, they tend to have a slightly sweeter taste. However, the most commonly used tomatillos are picked when they are still firm and green, which contributes to their characteristic tanginess.
It’s important to note that the flavor of tomatillos can be influenced by how they are prepared and used in dishes. Cooking tomatillos can mellow out their tartness and bring out their natural sweetness.
When used in salsas, sauces, or cooked dishes, the tartness of tomatillos can provide a refreshing and bright flavor that pairs well with other ingredients. Overall, they offer a unique and lively taste that adds a distinctive tanginess to dishes, making them a key ingredient in Mexican and Central American cuisines.
What Are Tomatillos Used For?
Tomatillos are a versatile ingredient used in a variety of dishes, particularly in Mexican and Central American cuisines. Here are some common uses for it:
- Salsas: They are a key ingredient in salsa verde, a popular green salsa. The tomatillos are typically roasted or boiled, then blended with other ingredients such as chili peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro to create a flavorful and tangy salsa.
- Sauces and Moles: Tomatillos can be used as a base for various sauces and moles. They add acidity and depth of flavor to these complex and rich sauces, enhancing dishes like enchiladas, tamales, or grilled meats.
- Soups and Stews: Tomatillos can be incorporated into soups and stews to provide a tangy and bright flavor. They can be chopped and added to dishes like pozole, tortilla soup, or chili verde.
- Marinades and Dressings: Tomatillos can be blended with other ingredients to create tangy marinades for meat, poultry, or vegetables. They can also be used as a base for salad dressings, adding a refreshing and zesty twist to your salads.
- Tacos and Tostadas: They can be used as a topping or condiment for tacos and tostadas. Sliced or diced tomatillos add a burst of flavor and texture to these Mexican street food favorites.
- Side Dishes: Cooked or roasted tomatillos can be served as a side dish alongside grilled meats or as a flavorful accompaniment to rice, beans, or roasted vegetables.
Tomatoes: Are They Toxic?
There is some disagreement over the toxicity of unripe tomatillos. Unripe ones taste awful, regardless of whether it is true or not, which we can state with total certainty. They have a sharp, bitter taste.
We will always advise against eating unripe tomatillos and will always err on the side of caution. Look for deep green and split paper lanterns. When ripe, certain tomatillo cultivars take on a yellow or purple hue.
The plant’s leaves stems, and blossoms, along with other nightshade crops, are all poisonous. You should discard the husks as well because they aren’t edible before cooking or eating them.
What Are The Health Benefits of Tomatillos?
Tomatillos offers several health benefits as they are a nutritious addition to your diet. Here are some potential health benefits:
- Nutrient-rich: Tomatillos are low in calories and provide essential vitamins and minerals. They are a good source of vitamin C, which is important for immune function, collagen synthesis, and antioxidant protection. Tomatillos also contain vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and bone health, as well as potassium, which is essential for maintaining proper fluid balance, nerve function, and heart health.
- Antioxidant properties: They contain various antioxidants, including vitamin C and flavonoids. Antioxidants help protect the body against damage from harmful free radicals, reducing the risk of chronic diseases and promoting overall health.
- Fibre Content: Tomatillos are a good source of dietary fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health. Fibre aids in maintaining regular bowel movements promotes satiety and supports a healthy gut microbiome.
- Potential anti-inflammatory effects: Some studies suggest that tomatillos may possess anti-inflammatory properties. The presence of certain compounds in tomatillos, such as flavonoids and phytochemicals, may help reduce inflammation in the body, potentially lowering the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and certain types of cancer.
- Weight management: Due to their low calorie and high fiber content, tomatillos can be a beneficial addition to a weight management diet. The fiber in tomatillos helps promote feelings of fullness, aiding in portion control and preventing overeating.
How to Store Tomatillos?
To store them and keep them fresh, follow these guidelines:
- Husk Removal: Keep the husks intact until you are ready to use them. The husks help protect the fruit and maintain its freshness.
- Room Temperature: They can be stored at room temperature for a few days, especially if you plan to use them soon. Place them in a well-ventilated basket or bowl, away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
- Refrigeration: If you want to extend the shelf life of tomatillos, you can store them in the refrigerator. Place the tomatillos in a paper bag or perforated plastic bag to allow for airflow. This helps prevent moisture buildup and maintains the quality of the fruit. Stored this way, tomatillos can last for about two weeks.
- Freezing: If you have an excess of them or want to preserve them for longer periods, you can freeze them. First, remove the husks and wash them. Blanch them by placing them in boiling water for about 1 minute, then transferring them to an ice bath. Once cooled, drain and pat them dry. Place the blanched and dried tomatillos in freezer-safe bags or containers, remove as much air as possible, and seal tightly. Frozen tomatillos can be stored for up to 6 months.
In conclusion, tomatillos are small, round, green fruits that are commonly used in Mexican and Central American cuisine. Despite their name, they are not tomatoes but belong to the nightshade family. Tomatillos have a tart and tangy flavor, which adds a unique citrus-like taste to dishes.
They are often used in salsas and sauces, such as the popular salsa verde, where they are blended or cooked with other ingredients like chili peppers, onions, garlic, and herbs. They can also be incorporated into a variety of recipes, including soups, stews, enchiladas, and salads, to add brightness and depth of flavor.
In terms of nutrition, they are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. They are low in calories and can be a nutritious addition to a balanced diet. When selecting them, look for firm, bright green fruits with intact husks. Store them at room temperature or in the refrigerator for a few days to maintain their freshness.