During late summer we focus our attention away from the garden, and toward storing some of the harvest for the winter months ahead.  We love tomatillos (toe-ma-tee-ohs), but until this spring we hadn’t grown our own here.  We don’t see them for sale very often at the local Farmer’s Market, not in any quantity, and the tomatillos in grocery stores often appear to be well past their prime.

Fresh, garden grown, tomatillos

While planning the gardens for this year though we decided to try growing tomatillos (Physalis philadelphica) in our own garden for a change.

We purchased Tomatillo Verde seeds from Baker Creek early in the spring, starting them indoors at the same time we started the tomato seeds in mid-February, and transplanted the seedlings out into the gardens in mid-April.  Tomatillos like similar conditions to tomatoes in the garden, except they will set fruit at cooler temperatures, and this summer, with our persistently cool weather, they have far out-performed our tomatoes.

By mid spring the plants quickly dwarfed other plants around them, and started to produce numerous nectar rich blooms for the bees

Much to our surprise, and the delight of our honey bees, the plants rapidly grew to more than 6 feet in height, and put on a profusion of flowers by late spring.  Unlike tomatoes, which the honey bees rarely visit, the tomatillo blossoms were so covered in bees, that at times it was difficult to see the flowers.

Tomatillo flowers and fruits are remarkably ornamental in appearance, and an attractive addition to the vegetable garden

That of course translated into a bumper crop of fruits!

When growing your own tomatillos, ideally they should be harvested when the fruits just fill their papery lantern-like husk, but the fruits are still green in color.

Ripe tomatillos with a little purple blush where the fruits were exposed to direct sunlight

Tomatillos lose some of their sweet flavor when allowed to grow too large, so smaller fruits, that are green in color, will result in a more tart and tangy salsa.  Yellow fruits tend to lose their crisp, acidic tartness, and are not ideal for salsa.  The papery husks surrounding the fruits should be light brown when harvesting, and often, barely touching the fruits at this stage will cause them to fall from the plants, directly into your hand.

The lantern-like fruits are quite charming, and almost worth growing just for their ornamental, and bee-value in the garden.

We harvested our tomatillos over the period of a couple of weeks.  While waiting to process them we simply stored them on the kitchen counter. They can also be stored in the refrigerator in plastic bags, with their husks removed, to prolong their shelf life.

This weekend we used some of our harvest to make our own homegrown Tomatillo Salsa Verde.  Over the coming year, having a few jars on hand will ensure we always have salsa handy to pair with chicken, fish, soft tacos, enchiladas, burritos, even over omelets.

If you have a bumper crop of tomatillos, the following recipe can easily be doubled.

Yield:  7-8 half-pint (8fl oz/250 ml) jars


4 lbs Tomatillos, husks removed, and washed
10 Whole Garlic Cloves, peeled
6 Fresh Jalapeño Peppers*, seeded if desired
2 Fresh Anaheim Chiles, seeded if desired
4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3-1/2 fl oz Lemon Juice, fresh squeezed
12 Scallions, sliced
1-1/2 Cups Cilantro, finely chopped
1-1/2 Tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 Tsp Black Pepper, fresh ground


Quarter the tomatillos, and place on two shallow half-sheet baking pans. Use a pan with sides, as the tomatillos will exude juice while they cook.

Cross section of a tomatillo

Add the fresh whole garlic cloves, and sliced peppers to the tomatillos, and drizzle each pan with 2 Tbsp of olive oil.

Jalapeño Peppers

Roast the tomatillo mixture for 15-20 minutes until golden, either in an oven, or as we did, on the grill, at 450 F.

Tomatillos, peppers and garlic, on the grill

Once softened, and the tomatillos and peppers have a little color, allow the tomatillo mixture to cool slightly and then place the mixture into a food processor.  Add the lemon juice, sliced scallions, and cilantro, and pulse until evenly blended, and no large chunks remain.

Garden fresh cilantro

A stick blender also works well.

Once grilled, the remaining ingredients are added and the mixture is pureed until smooth

Pour the grilled, pureed, tomatillo mixture into a large non-reactive saucepan.  Add the salt, and pepper to taste, and set over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes until heated through.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Pureed salsa heating on the stove

Have 8 hot, sterilized jars and their lids ready (see video below for tips on preparing your jars for canning).

Ladle the hot salsa verde into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head-space in each jar.  Remove any air bubbles, and if necessary, wipe the rims clean and seal tightly with lids and bands.

Tomatillo salsa verde

Process the sealed jars for 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath.  The sealed jars can be stored in a cool and dark place for up to 12 months.  If the seal failed during processing, store the jar in the refrigerator for up to 14 days.

*To reduce the heat intensity of the jalapeño peppers, split the peppers length-wise, and remove the white pith and seeds before roasting.  This will result in a more mild, but flavorful salsa.


The following helpful video demonstrates the boiling-water bath canning technique, including basic required equipment, and how to prepare your jars and lids for canning:

Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more helpful information on canning home produce.