Tomatillos, also known as jam berries or Mexican green tomatoes, are a cousin of the tomato and a popular dish to grow in your garden. They should not be confused with green tomatoes, which are hard, young tomatoes that have not yet ripened and turned red. Whereas green tomatoes are usually eaten fried, tomatillos are more often used as condiments to make sauces or Mexican salsa. Unlike green tomatoes, tomatillos can come in a variety of different colors — purple, green, and yellow — and are coated in a sticky residue and covered in a papery husk. Green tomatoes are usually available in the fall, whereas tomatillos grow all year round.
Tomatillos are an ideal fruit to grow in your garden because they grow during all seasons, have a delicious tarty flavor, and pack a nutritional punch of vitamins C and K, which boost your immune system. But you need to make sure you harvest and store them properly in order to preserve the fruit’s flavor, longevity, and nutritional value. Without proper harvest and storage, they can easily grow rotten and bitter. Follow the steps below to learn how to harvest and store tomatillos properly.
1. Harvest at the Appropriate Time
It takes 75 to 100 days for tomatillos to ripen after being sowed. A ripe tomatillo will be about the size of a cherry tomato. You can tell tomatillos are ready to harvest when the fruit starts to expand and break through its papery husk. Check the husk to make sure you’re harvesting ripe tomatillos. Remove them from the branch by giving them a gentle twist or a using a garden pruner. Before harvesting or storing, you can peel back the husk to make sure the fruit you are harvesting is not damaged inside.
2. Decide When You Will Be Using The Tomatillos, And Store Accordingly
If you plan to use the tomatillos within six days of harvesting them, you can simply leave them on your kitchen countertop. Your countertop should be dry and clean. Make sure your home is not unusually warm. For example, if you live in a particularly hot place and you anticipate that your kitchen might reach eighty or ninety degrees or become very humid, you might consider storing the tomatillos in a cooler, temperature- and humidity-controlled place. The fridge is not ideal for such a short storage time, but it is better than leaving the tomatillos in a hot, humid kitchen countertop.
If you need to store the tomatillos for up to four weeks and do not wish to remove the husk, you should store them in the fridge inside a paper bag. The paper bag will absorb the moisture from the tomatillos. Since removing the husks can be a little challenging, this is often the easiest way to store tomatillos.
If instead, you want to store the tomatillos without the husk, you should use a plastic freezer or Ziploc bag. First, place the tomatillos in warm water to soften the husk. Once softened, peel off the husk and leave the tomatillos out until they dry. Once dried, place the tomatillos in the plastic bag, close the bag, and place it in the fridge.
3. For Longer-Term Storage, Put them in the Freezer
If you don’t plan to use the tomatillos for a month or longer, you should remove the husks using the method described above. Once you have removed the husk, wash the tomatillos and let them dry on a dry, cool surface. Then use a knife to cut them up into thin slices or dices. Place the cut-up fruit on a cookie sheet and put the pieces in the freezer until the tomatillos are nearly frozen. Then place the tomatillos in a plastic bag and return them to the freezer. You can store them in this way for six to twelve months.
For even longer-term storage, you can wash the fruit, blend it using a blender or food processor, and then pour the resulting tomatillo puree into ice trays. Allow the trays to freeze, then put the frozen cubes into a Ziploc or freezer bag and leave in the freezer until you plan to use them.
Once you’re ready to eat the tomatillos, you can use them in all kinds of salsas, dips, sauces, and soup for a delicious meal!