Tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa)
Fresh tomatillos are the main ingredient in salsa verde, bright green fruit the shape of a small tomato, but firmer and tarter. Growing on sprawling vines, the fruit is encased by a paper lantern shaped husk that dries and splits when mature. The plants can be trellised, but are usually left to their own devices in a corner of the garden. For harvesting, it's helpful to have a small child search the ground for ripe fallen fruit, while you reach overhead to pluck some from the vines.
Nutrients: good source of Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Niacin, Potassium and Manganese
How to Grow Tomatillos from Seed
Tomatillo is a frost-sensitive annual that requires full sun and moderately rich, well-drained soil. Prior to planting, loosen soil well and add a couple inches of compost.
Tomatillo plants are not self-fertile; plant 2 or more plants for fruit set. Sow tomatillo seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. Plant seed 1/8" deep. Optimal soil temperature for germination is 60-85°F. Seeds will sprout in 10-21 days. Transplant outdoors once the danger of frost has passed and temperatures have warmed.
Tomatillo plants grow on sprawling vines, so trellis or give plants plenty of space. Mature plant spacing should be 24-36" apart in rows that are 36" apart.
Tomatillos will be ready to harvest in approximately 75 days. Harvest when the papery husk is full and starts to split. Mature fruits often fall to the ground when ripe.
How to Save Tomatillo Seeds
Tomatillos have perfect flowers, but are self-incompatible and require cross-pollination by insects in order to set seed. At least 4 plants should be planted to ensure viable seeds. Tomatillo seeds can be hard to harvest due to their dense flesh. Our favorite method is to put the fruits in a blender with equal parts water and pulsing on low until the fruit is mashed. Allowing the seeds to then settle will have the seeds sinking to the bottom and the wet chaff floating to the top, which can then be poured off and the seeds spread out to dry. Fermentation is not necessary.