The Q&A Archives: How to Grow Tomatillos

Question: Tomatillos are listed in the Burpee catalog--and others, but they contain no information on growing them: their habits, space needed, fertilization, etc. I own four fine books on vegetable gardening and there is nothing in them either.

Answer: The Tomatillo is also known as the husk tomato, although they're not from the tomato family at all. Tomatillos are Physalis ixocarpa, but the culture is the same as for the tomato. They take about 55 days to mature and like lots of sunshine and heat. Prepare the garden site by adding lots of organic matter, then plant your seeds and water well. Or, you can start the seeds indoors for transplant, if you do that for tomatoes. The plants will grow in an upright fashion with dark green foliage. You can let them sprawl or support them. They like heat and warm temperatures. If your soil is fairly rich, extra fertilizer usually isn't required, but again, you can follow what you do for your tomatoes. After the flowers have been pollinated, green fruits will grow that are covered with a papery covering. When the husks turn from green to brown, the tomatillos are mature and ready to harvest. Just pick them from the plant and remove the husk before using. Most fruit will be between 1" and 2" inches in diameter. Tomatillos are used in green salsa recipes, or cooked for about 5 minutes and added to chili rellenos, or other 'South of the Border' dishes.

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