Physalis ixocarpa Bront. ex Hornem


The tomatillo is an introduction from Mexico, and is used almost exclusively in mexican or spanish-american dishes. It is similar to the green tomato, but has more seed and less juice. Due to its different cooking qualities, tomatillos and green tomatoes should not be used as substitutes for each other. The primary use for tomatillos is in green sauces such as salsa verde, taco sauce and that for chili rellenos. Tomatillos may also be used in soups and stews.

The tomatillo is closely related to the husk tomato. Indeed, all members of this genera have tomato-like fruits enclosed in thin papery husks. Tomatillo has larger fruits than husk tomato and may be 3" in diameter and be green or purplish when ripe. Another sign of ripeness is that the husk becomes dry and papery.

Tomatillo is increasing in popularity as it is used in authentic Mexican cuisine. It is used in chili sauce, salsa, and other Mexican dishes.

Fruits are 2"-3" in diameter, widely adapted, available from several sources, maturity varies from 60-80 days from transplanting.

Some of the different varieties include Tomatillo, Verde Puebla, and Tomatillo de Milpa.


Tomatillo is easily grown with culture similar to tomatoes. The plants are vigorous, large, and sprawling. Individual plants may require 4 square feet or more. Seeds should be started indoors 5-6 weeks before the last frost in the spring. This is a warm season crop and should respond favorably to black plastic mulch although this is not essential. The plants are very vigorous and will produce acceptably on less fertilizer than tomatoes.

Diseases and Insects

Based upon the literature, tomatillo could be affected by some of the most common diseases and insects. It is a host for root know nematodes. Early blight, angular leaf spot,and rust have been reported as pathogens. Tomatillo could also be affected by mosaic viruses that are carried by aphids. At the present time, no chemicals have labels for this crop.

Seed Sources

Johnny's, Foss Hill Road, Albion ME 04910

Willhite Seed Inc. P. O. Box 23, Poolville TX 76487

Post-Harvest and Packing

Days to harvest are approximately 90 from seed, and 75 from transplants. Harvesting may continue for 60 days or more.

Tomatillos are harvested when they reach about 1 1/4 to 3" in diameter, and the husk turns dry, tan, and papery. The fruit should be deep green. Once the fruit begins to take an orange, yellow or purple hue, it has become too sweet for most purposes. (Although it is too sweet for salsa and the like, it is not quite sweet enough for jams and baking products--see the husk tomato for this use). If the fruit is harvested before the husk dries, they must be stored until the husk becomes dry before marketing.

Store with the husks intact.
Stores well in cool, well-ventilated area, preferably 55-60 dF (13-15 dC) at 85-90% relative humidity. May last 3 weeks.

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