Growers may ponder when to harvest tomatillos for the best flavor since tomatillos are a favorite in many vegetable gardens. Are green tomatoes the same as tomatillos? No, they are not the same. One tomatillo plant produces fruit to an almost absurd degree, which means you can create a lot of salsa verde or green salsa, as well as other delicious dishes with only a few tomatillo plants in your garden. Knowing when to harvest tomatillos ensures you pick the fruit at its most flavorful stage.
Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa are the two types of tomatillos – there are many different kinds of both. Where does tomatillo come from? These nightshade family members are endemic to Mexico and Central America and have been central in Mexican cuisine in enchiladas, stews, and tomatillo salsa for hundreds of years.
After investing time during the growing season, it is unsurprising gardeners are eager to understand the intricacies of harvesting tomatillos to ensure their hard work is rewarded with delicious ripe tomatillo fruits. Ripe tomatillos not only look better but taste better. Selecting the correct tomatillo harvest time makes it easy to ensure ripe fruit every single harvest.
Easy Tips for When to Pick Tomatillos
When are tomatillos ready to pick? Known as the husk tomato or ground cherries, these bright green fruits look like a green tomato inside a papery husk.
Tomatillos are an excellent choice for your garden because they yield much fruit from a single plant. Since the plants do not self-pollinate, you need at least two or more tomatillo plants to ensure pollination so they can produce fruit. What to grow with tomatillos or ground cherries includes carrots or peas.
Tomatillo plants generate a lot of yellow blossoms. These flowers eventually convert into spherical, empty husks. The tomatillos begin to form there, ultimately filling in the husks and finally ripening to delicious fruits. Understanding when to pick tomatillos allows you to enjoy your harvest at its ripest.
Patience is required when growing tomatillos, whether growing tomatillos indoors in pots or containers or outside. Also known as Mexican ground cherries or Mexican husk tomatoes, tomatillos take a long time to ripen. If you’re impatient, you could even hand pollinate them.
However, once they begin to fruit, they are prolific producers. Harvest season is approaching as green lantern-like husks form on the plants.
How do I Plant Tomatillos in My Garden?
In warmer climates, grow tomatillos from seed right in your garden. If your USDA zone is cooler, start them indoors six weeks before the last frost to avoid the outdoor danger of frost damaging the seeds and preventing germination. When the weather is more favorable, your seeds are ready for transplanting in your garden.
Select your favorite tomatillo variety seeds. The Toma Verde is a popular choice due to its quick maturation and sweet taste.
Choose an area with full sun and well-drained soil and provide even watering, especially as fruits grow. Tomatillos grow in a similar way to tomato plants.
They require tomato cages or strong staking to support the heavy fruit to keep the laden stems from lying on the ground. Be vigilant for pests like aphids and snails, and treat promptly to avoid fruit damage. Mulching around the base of the plants helps conserve soil moisture.
How Long Does it Take for Tomatillos to Grow?
The tomatillo plant was first cultivated in the United States in the 1980s. Because of the plant’s newness, many gardeners are unfamiliar with it. If this is your first time growing tomatillos, you may wonder how long does it take for tomatillos to grow.
Before they start producing blooms and fruiting, tomatillos grow tall and have a lot of leaves. Fruit begins to ripen 60 to 80 days after transplantation if you start your tomatillo plant indoors, and it continues to produce until frost.
Picking tomatillos as they ripen allows the plant to continue fruiting, providing a bountiful harvest. When are tomatoes or tomatilos ripe? In 75 to 100 days, the fruits are ready to eat. Once they begin to bear fruit, the plants continue to produce until frost returns.
Understanding When to Harvest Tomatillos
Because each variety grows to a distinct tint, the color of the tomatillo fruit isn’t a good indicator of ripeness. The acidity and flavor of the early green fruits are the strongest, and they soften as they age.
The husk is the best sign of when to pluck a tomatillo. Fully ripe tomatillos are firm and turn yellow or purple if your plant is a purple tomatillo variety.
Harvest tomatillos when the fruits are still green since they have the most flavor. For sustained fruiting, it’s critical to understand when to harvest tomatillos. Choose fruits with burst husks and no evidence of disease, mold, or insect damage. Remove and compost any damaged fruits.
From mid-summer until late fall, the best time to harvest tomatillos is in the morning. Keep monitoring the husk on the outside of the tomatillo to determine when it’s time to pick it. The fruit expands to fill the husk, and the plant produces papery shells. Pick tomatillos as soon as the dry skin separates.
Underripe tomatillos have a loose papery husk, and the fruit feels small and hard inside the covering. Harvesting at this stage produces fruit that is not pleasant to eat.
Overripe tomatillos have an extremely dry husk and fruit with larger seeds and less flavor. Ripe tomatillo fruit fills the husk, feels slightly soft to the touch, and tastes the best.
How to Harvest Tomatillos with Ease
Once you know when are tomatillos ready to pick, next comes how to harvest tomatillos.
One tomatillo plant produces 60 to 200 fruits in a growing season or a massive two and a half pounds of fruit per plant. Pick tomatillos every 7 to 14 days to keep your plants producing for a higher yield.
To harvest tomatillos, twist the fruits gently or cut them off at the vine using a garden pruner or clean scissors. Collect fruits and place gently in a basket or container to avoid bruising. When removing a small portion of the husk, the fruit should be shiny and free of blemishes.
Like their tomato counterparts, ripe tomatillos may fall off the vine when they’re ready. Check around the base of your plants once you’ve determined they’re almost ready to ensure you don’t miss collecting any fallen fruits.
Tomatillos continue to bear fruit into the fall. Tomatillos drop into the garden when they’re ripe and begin to decay. Attempt to pull them from the dirt before the fruit breaks.
As the fruit starts to rot on the ground, you’ll have a mushy mess on your hands during fall cleanup. Furthermore, seedlings emerge in the spring if the seeds stay on the ground during the winter. This is fine to grow plants in your garden again, but if you don’t remove the fruit, they become a persistent nuisance and compete with other crops.
Storing and Using Tomatillos after Harvest
You’ll have plenty of tasty fruit to share with family and friends once you’ve learned how to plant tomatillos. To store tomatillos, keep them cold and dry. They keep for approximately a week on the counter and three weeks in the fridge in a paper bag. Keep the husks on the fruit until ready to use to extend the shelf life.
Depending on the variety you planted, ripe tomatillos are green, purple, or yellow when peeled. When tomatillos are still green, they are ripe. As they turn yellow, the acidic flavor they’re famed for fades. Purple tomatillos have a sweeter taste.
Remove the rest of the paper husks from your tomatillos before eating them. They should peel away easily. Because the husks make the fruit sticky, give it a good rinsing in warm water before eating to remove any residue.
Use chopped fresh tomatillos in guacamole or salsa. Roasted or sautéed tomatillos are great in sauces and salsas. Tomatillos are somewhat more acidic and citrusy than tomatoes but easily substitute them in any cuisine with tomatoes in the recipe.
Tomatillos are often blended into a delicious sauce to pour over enchiladas. They’re delicious in salads or as part of tasty green salsa.
When to pick tomatillos has troubled gardeners for years. As color is a poor indicator, studying the husk and understanding when to harvest tomatillos for best results is critical.
Unlike tomatoes, tomatillos can’t be placed in a sunny spot to ripen after harvesting as they won’t mature further after removal from the plant. When to pick tomatillos needs to be more precisely timed than tomatoes, but it is possible with a little knowledge.
Whatever your USDA zone, give these delicious fruits a try. They are heavy producers generating lots of fruit per plant, making them a great choice to get more crops for the space they use in your garden. The fruits store well and are easy to use in green salsa or be canned to enjoy in the off-season.
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