The tomatillo, also known as the Mexican husk tomato, is a plant of the nightshade family, similar to tomatoes. They are round and green and used in many Mexican dishes. Tomatillos have a tart, fruity, and slightly herbal flavour, making them slightly different to the traditional sour tomato taste.
Tomatillos originated in Mexico and were cultivated in the pre-Columbian era. As a staple of Mexican cuisine, they are eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes, namely salsa verde.
Wild Mexican Tomatillos and related plants are found everywhere in the Americas except in the far north. There was a discovery and analysis of a fossil tomatillo found in the Patagonian region of Argentina, dated to 52 million years ago! The finding has pushed back the earliest appearance of the Solanaceae plant family of which the tomatillos are one genus.
Mexican Tomatillos were domesticated in Mexico before the coming of Europeans, and played an important part in the culture of the Maya and the Aztecs – more important than the tomato!
In Mexico, the plant is grown mostly in the states of Hidalgo and Morelos. It is also grown in the highlands of Guatemala where it is known as “miltomate”.
Mexican Tomatillos are a key ingredient in green sauces. The green color and tart flavour are key feature of tomatillo sauces. Like their close relatives, cape gooseberries, tomatillos have a high pectin content. They also tend to have a a varying degree of a sappy sticky coating, mostly when used on the green side out of the husk.
As with canned tomatoes, canned tomatillos are long lasting and are more efficient that buying fresh all the time. Because it is canned the flavour profile of the tomatillos mature and become bolder. As with other canned products, other herbs, spices, sauces and seasonings can be added to the can to absorb into the tomatillo!