The Tomatillo: How to Grow It and a Recipe from Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza

Categories: Now Growing

By Diógenes el Filósofo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Arizona's climate allows you to grow tomatillos.

A staple in many Mexican dishes, the tomatillo is a delightful nightshade vegetable that you might have seen recently at some local farmers markets. They sort of look like very hard, green tomatoes and do well in low desert climates like Phoenix. They are an annual climate and seem to like our warm weather and sunlight. Read on for growing tips and a recipe from Barrio Cafe's Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza.

See also: It's Heating Up: 5 Tips for Watering

"Tomatillos can range from a bit woodsy and bitter to almost a sweet finish. A little
secret I have for combating a bitter batch of tomatillo puree is to add a pinch of sugar.
This will bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatillo," says Chef Silvana.

Sure they're delicious, but what is it about them that makes them the perfect summer secret?

High in vitamins A, C and potassium, tomatillos are a healthy addition to your garden. Best grown in summer and early fall here in the Phoenix area, tomatillos are best planted in pairs. Plant your tomatillos in a sunny location and feel free to add compost to the soil. A raised bed is perfect.

Wikimedia Commons, public domain
Tomatillos in the husks

Like tomatoes, tomatillo like even moisture. You might even get a tomato cage to support them as they grow, although they likely won't grow as large as your tomato plants. You can harvest the fruit when the fruit is green and sort of fills out the husk around it. Be careful, if they outgrow the husks, birds might start eating your plants and the tartness of the fruit will have dissipated.

Store the fruit in the fridge or in a brown paper bag. Used in sauces and salsa, tomatillos freeze well either whole out of the husk or cooked and blended with other ingredients in your recipe. Typically, the fruit is broiled, grilled or steamed and Chef Esparza recommend using them in Enchiladas Suizas, Enchiladas Verdes, salsas, mole, posole, chile verde or even adding them to BBQ sauce or chicken broth.

Here's the recipe you've been waiting for:

Location Info

Barrio Cafe

2814 N. 16th St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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My Voice Nation Help

Usually, Baker's has some starter plants. At times, Vilardi gardens carries them and I've seen a few at Whitfill's. The big box stores don't carry them often. 

Jose M Cruz
Jose M Cruz

Any idea where I can find seeds or plants?

Rebecca Parker
Rebecca Parker

I'm growing some purple tomatillos right now. Can't wait to use them!


no, we don't. we've never heard of plant nurseries, nor seed banks. we're all as clueless as you are about this mystery fruit.

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