Friday, February 24, 2012

Tomatillos in March...

... probably.

Here are some of the tomatillos I have left from last summer. They were stored in their husks. There is lots of variety here with some having very inflated calyxes and others having those that fit more tightly. They are all yellow in colour though this year I have some seeds for a variety that tinges purple. Some varieties will burst out of their husks when ripe. I'm not sure how well those would store in comparison as I've not tried them.

If you haven't tried husk tomatoes yet - tomatillos and ground cherries - but can't imagine life without tomatoes, then you might just like these fruity flavoured relatives as well. They are started in the same way: about six to eight weeks before frost, transplanted in warm soil after last frost date. Some of them are quite rangy while others are more upright in habit. Tomatillos need more than one plant to fruit well so I've read (never tried to grow just one plant). Once they start producing the fruit, they can really pump it out.

Tomatillos, Physalis philadelphica (ixocarpa), are eaten at the well formed still green stage as well as the dead ripe, but you will be cautioned not to nibble on ground cherries, Physalis pruinosa, until they are golden with a tan husk. Some go as far as saying to wait until they fall off the plant. Not to worry if you have to collect them from the ground because they store well in those husks.

These fruits seem to be more popular of late. I've seen versions of salsa verde as a relish in chic-chic restaurants the occasional time I've been found inside of one and a nursery man at Make it Green told me that he has been selling a lot of ground cherries to chefs, with kitchen gardens I presume.

So what do they taste like? Green tomatillos taste tangy and tomato-esque and are often described as like citrus. Fully ripe, their fruity overtones intensify sometimes reminding me of a ripe apple. Ground cherries, on the other hand vary from reminiscent of pineapple, strawberry or something else dessert worthy. They make a nice addition to salads and some people use them to make pie.

I've opened some husks so you can see the innards. Note that they are nice and ripe looking. The top one is getting a bit wizened but still quite edible

But that's not what this blog post is about! You've heard me go on about small fruit tomato relatives before. No, it's that storage thing I mentioned.

If you pick them ripe in their husks and store in a cool, dry place (or just on your counter like me), they will keep for months. I have a few plants of ground cherries yanked by the root and left in the cellar too. Some of them may raison-up a bit but that doesn't take away their yumminess. In fact, it can intensify their flavour. My youngest told me the ground cherries were "Mmm, sweet."

Now what to do with these fruit? Something special to contrast with the snow globe outside today.


Would you like some seeds? I have some seeds. They are no-named varieties and characteristics will probably vary a bit.

There is also a perennial ground cherry, Physalis heterophylla, that grows around here and probably stores well in husk too. Unfortunately, I seem to have eaten them all already so I couldn't test this theory. The variety I have has a heavenly fruity scent. Northern Bushcraft seems to think they can be stored for several months in a cool room making me think that indeed that'd store much like the above. They also describe the taste as pleasant sweet/sour. I'm reading that as pleasant sweet/tart: tomato-tomato. Anyhow, if you find a good tasting variety in your foraging - they are wild around here - then you may want to take home a rhizome or two as my experience suggests that they vary in quality much like most plants. Not too much mind as you wouldn't want to deprive the locality of this fun and tasty weed. Did I mention it was weedy? Think chinese lantern before you commit to a location in your garden though I'm not sure if it is really THAT bad yet.


And another thing: A lady on FB asked me to write up a post on edible front yards so I am committing to doing that after I resurrect my old computer files to find some good pics. It'll be fun!


becky3086 said...

I would love some seeds from the ground cherries. I have wanted to try them for a while now. I once ordered some seeds but they didn't germinate :( Anyway, my email is

Cory said...

I did some ground cherries last year and my daughter loved them. When we'd go for a weekend outing I'd puck a few dozen of them and that's what she'd have as her snack on the road.

Daphne said...

I grew the pineapple tomatillo (not really a tomatillo, but a ground cherry) one year. It made very good salsa.

Our yard will one day be a nice version of an edible front yard. But the fruit trees and blueberries were just planted last year. I might get some asparagus this year and will definitely get lots of strawberries. The alpine strawberries make an especially pretty border. They are much neater and pretty than regular strawberries.