Culinary Basics - Cooking with Tomatillos
Culinary basics should include trying out the Mexican fruit called the tomatillo. It is a versatile little fruit that comes from Mexico. It has a variety of uses but is primarily known for being used in salsa verde.
The tomatillo is also known as the green tomato, tomate verde, husk tomato, jamberry, husk cherry, Mexican tomato, and the ground cherry.
The tomatillo is actually part of the nightshade family of plants and the plant itself is toxic - while the fruit is delicious!
WHAT EXACTLY IS A TOMATILLO?
- Tomatillos are not actually a tomato but they are from the same family
- The fruit grows inside a husk
- Tomatillos can turn many colors - yellow, green, red or purple
- The consistency of the tomatillo when ripe should be firm - like that of a small tomato
- You want the husk of the tomatillo to be fresh looking and green when purchased
- The fruit itself should be a bright green
- The tomatillo is the key ingredient in Latin green sauces
- The husk splits when the tomatillo is harvested
- After purchasing or harvesting, the husks should be removed and the tomatillos kept in the fridge in zip-lock bags for up to 2 weeks
- You can freeze tomatillos whole or sliced
- The tomatillo looks like a paper lantern - that's how you will know them when you find them!
- The tomatillo texture is also somewhat like a kiwi
Ways to Use the Tomatillo
There are various dishes that you can use tomatillos for, however, by far the most popular one is to make salsa verde.
In turn, salsa verde can be used for any number of recipes from chicken to fish to enchiladas, to tacos.
I make fish tacos with a firm white fish (like Chilean bass) although I've made them also with salmon and they were delicious. The other ingredients I use in my fish tacos are a mixture of green and purple shredded cabbage, a bit of shredded carrot, and diced tomatillos. They are fantastic!
You can also grill, roast or blanch tomatillos and make any number of dishes with them or serve them as an accompaniement.
I love their unique taste. It is a crisp and a little tart taste - never mushy - and have even had them for breakfast before.
Add salsa verde to soups, pasta, guacamole, rice, quesadillas, or as a sauce on fish or chicken.
They are great with flavoring of lemon or lime and even a bit of cumin.
One of the best qualities of tomatillos is that they are never soggy - they are always crisp and yet delicate with a bit of a citrus flavor to them.
They also come in various sizes - from walnut sized to golf ball sized. The smaller ones are usually the best ones to buy, however.
Culinary Basics - How to Make Salsa Verde
How Do You Cook Tomatillos?
These are the recommended methods for preparing tomatillos. Make sure the tomatillos are husked, washed and dried before using any of these methods.
Raw - Uncooked tomatillos or raw is how they are used in Mexican sauces. Or add them to dishes chopped or sliced.
Blanching - This will make the flavor more mellow so for someone who does not like the taste of the raw tomatillo, this would be a good option. Add whole tomatillos with husks removed and fruit rinsed to a pot of boiling water. Boil for about 5 minutes or less until slightly soft. Drain them in a colander and then proceed to crush or puree in a blender or food processor as directed in a recipe.
Fire Roasting - This method is done by cooking the tomatillos under the broiler using either a propane torch or over an open flame such as a barbecue grill. Fire roasting requires the temperature to be very hot before roasting. If heat is not high enough, the tomatillos will turn mushy before being charred by the flames. The charred or slightly blackened skins will enrich the tomatillos and give them with a smoked flavor.
Dry Roasting - Dry roasting tomatillos will give a nutty flavor. For this method, use a cast iron pan or a heavy skillet. Keep heat on low and roast for approximately 20-30 minutes while flipping them over occasionally.
Summing It Up
The tomatillo is a wonderful little fruit that is gaining more popularity as people become accustomed to seeing it in the supermarket.
People in Texas and New Mexico are very familiar with this wonderful fruit and grow them themselves.
You can grow tomatillos provided that your soil pH is appropriate and your climate is adequate for this little fruit. They grow much like tomatoes and can be caged as the plants enlarge.
Remember with tomatillos though that the plants are toxic so beware if these plants are around children and pets.
The tomatillo is a great addition to anyone's culinary basic toolbox when it comes to ingredients and is a great fruit to add to many dishes!
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Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on June 28, 2018:
They are totally cool!
Denice Stout on June 28, 2018:
Had no idea what to do with them. Thank you
Deborah Minter from U.S, California on September 16, 2017:
I love to cook with Tomatillos.
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on March 21, 2011:
Emma from Houston TX on March 21, 2011:
Nice article you really shared in here,will try those stuff.
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on June 06, 2010:
Judydianne - me, too!
Sandy - try it - you'll love it!
Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on June 06, 2010:
I have yet to try tomatillos.
judydianne from Palm Harbor, FL on June 06, 2010:
Love tomatillos and salsa and anything of Mexican cuisine.
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on June 06, 2010:
Yes, I shall try to send you a potato hub here shortly! Thanks for reading as always hello, hello.
Hello, hello, from London, UK on June 06, 2010:
Can you please write about potatoes, water and bread. Poor forgotten Europe or England hasn't got all that hahaha Oh, some people do show off
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on June 05, 2010:
Glad you do - I love them! I used to really have a thing about fish tacos but now I love them - especially if I have some tomatillos to finish it off - jicama would probably be great in them too come to think of it!
Holle Abee from Georgia on June 05, 2010:
Okay, we do have these in the stores here!