Alhambra's Sunday Morning Farmer's Market
It's already mid August, which means summer is coming closer and closer to an end. As much as I'll miss sipping a refreshing poolside mojito on a blazing hot day, I am definitely looking forward to some autumn produce to spice things up in the kitchen. And after having a few too many of those Cuban cocktails, nothing is quite as nourishing as a spicy salsa verde full of ripe tomatillos.
The tomatillo is a fruit that looks like a green tomato encased in a protective papery husk which it punctures through when ripe. It can also change to a variety of colors when fully mature including yellow, red, green, or even purple, depending on the variety. The inner flesh is white and much firmer/meatier than a tomato, closer to an eggplant, with a tangy lemony tartness — which makes it particularly good for salsa.
Also known as husk tomato, tomate de cáscara or jamberry, the tomatillo is a plant under the nightshade (Solanaceae) family umbrella, which includes tomatoes, eggplants, chili peppers, potatoes and petunias. First domesticated by the Aztecs in around 800 BC, the it is available throughout the Western hemisphere from late summer throughout winter.
Tomatillos will last up to three weeks in the fridge when ripe, and can last even longer if the outer husks are removed and the inner fruit sealed in plastic bags. They can also be cleaned and prepped for long term storage in the freezer. When ready to use, remove the outer husk and give the fruit a good wash to remove any leftover dirt or film. Tomatillos can be used raw in salads, soups or salsas. Two very healthy raw options are a tomatillo and oyster mushroom soup, and a salsa with garlic, cilantro and chipotle peppers. Roasting tomatillos will develop deeper flavors will decreasing its tartness. Roast them whole in a 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes in a roasting tray or wrapped in foil over a hot grill, making sure to save all the juices that accumulate. If you want a faster cooking method, boil them for 5-10 minutes and drain (however I feel that boiling washes out a lot of flavor). Use the cooked tomatillos in a fiery salsa verde with Serrano chiles atop some enchiladas, or in a hearty tomatillo chicken stew. But my all time favorite preparation is a pork chile verde, where tomatillos and tough pork shoulder slowly meld into the ultimate comforting meal. And because tomatillos are packed full of pectin, it's completely reasonable that you can make a really tasty tomatillo jam.
Have you used tomatillos before? Do you have a favorite recipe or use? Let us hear them in the comments, or send them our way at [email protected]!