This year I tried growing tomatillos for the first time. To be honest, I wouldn’t have considered growing them at all but my brother and his wife have become fond of salsa verde and were determined to make their own. Well, I simply couldn’t resist the challenge of growing tomatillos as well and trying to make my own salsa verde.
It turns out that tomatillos are easy to grow. They’ve been harvested in Aztec culture since 600 BC and are a staple of Latin American cuisine.
I started mine from seed six weeks before the last expected frost and transplanted them outdoors in mid-May. I had no idea that they would grow to be three feet tall and equally wide, crowding out my tomatoes in the process. Ironically they provided great cover for the tender tomatoes last week during a nasty hail storm.
Tomatillos require a minimum of two plants for fertilization, and each plant will produce dozens of husk-covered fruit. Mine were ready for harvest at the end of August, the fruit having split the drying husks and outgrown their confines. The key is to pick them when they have reached their maximum size but before they have yellowed. About 10% of mine were picked too late, but I wasn’t concerned as I have an over abundance of fruit.
The tomatillo is a member of the nightshade family and related to the cape gooseberry. Its a distant relative of the tomato with which we are more familiar and often referred to as a “Mexican tomato”.
Salsa verde, or green salsa, is widely used in Mexico as a condiment as well as an ingredient in numerous traditional foods.
After much research I have come up with my own recipe for salsa verde, a combination of all the “good” parts of the many recipes I read online.
Husk and wash 3 lbs of tomatillos. Slice in half and remove the stem end, then place sliced side down on a sheet of parchment paper covering a cookie sheet. Select 2 medium onions and quarter one of them for roasting. Remove stems and seed four Serrano peppers, then slice them in half lengthwise. Peel a head of garlic. Place half the peppers and half the garlic on the roasting sheet along with the onion and tomatillos.
Roast (425F) for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, finely chop the other onion, the remaining peppers and garlic. Place these in your stock pot – they will give the salsa a bit more “chunkiness”.
Once the tomatillos have finished roasting, purée them along with the roasted onions peppers and garlic in a food processor. Make sure not to have any big chunks or large pieces of peel. Place the purée in the stock pot.
Now add 1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro, 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 tsp pickling salt, 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, and 1 tsp ground cumin. Heat the mixture and simmer for a few minutes.
This is now ready to use, or can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks. I decided to can mine and process in a hot water bath. I added 1/2 tbsp of lime juice to the bottom of each 125 ml jar before adding the salsa. Yield: 6 x 125ml jars.