The Q&A Archives: Husked Tomato - New Name?

Question: Years ago, my grandfather (who's own father worked for the Burpee Seed Co.) planted a fruit called a "husked tomato". The plant grew into a small bush (like the tomato plant) and sprouted fruits that were covered in a "husk" that looked very similar to a Japanese Lantern. When the husk was removed, a small golden fruit, about the size of a marble, remained. I've been looking for these plants for years - have you ever heard of them and can I still buy them?

Answer: You're very observant! They are from the same genus,
but are different species. A flower part called a "calyx"
becomes enlarged as a loose, papery husk. Physalis
alkekengi (Chinese lantern) is a perennial plant which is
grown for its decorative bright orange, "lanterns." The
lantern is actually the calyx which forms around the ripened
berry as the loose, papery lantern. It is an ornamental plant,
not edible.

Physalis ixocarpa (tomatillo, pronounced tom a teeyo) is an
annual plant grown for its edible fruits. The fruit usually
swells to fill the papery calyx, which is removed before
cooking. It's used
frequently in Mexican food. Depending on the variety it would be picked when green, yellow or purple.

Johnny's Seeds (207) 437-4301 or offers several varieties of tomatillo seed.

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