The Local Food Report: tomatillo salsa

Good morning, everyone. I'd like to introduce the tomatillo:

Isn't it a beautiful fruit? I met it last summer, talking with Ron Backer of Surrey Farms in Brewster. He grows all sorts of interesting heirlooms, including the tomatillo, which originated in Mexico. A lot of people think it's a tomato relative, and it is in the Solanaceae family, but it's more closely related to ground cherries and Giant Cape Gooseberries. It grows inside a paper husk, and depending on the variety and how ripe it is, the fruit can be any shade from yellow to lime green to a deep violet. Most importantly, it makes a killer salsa.

Ron feels so strongly about tomatillos and salsa that he calls salsa made with regular old tomatoes gazpacho in disguise. He admits that tomatillos are a little bit sour, but he says he likes this taste, and that Americans are too into sweet. He thinks it's a cultural thing that comes from eating too much high fructose corn syrup, and that we need to start thinking like the Latin Americans and Asians who count sour and bitter as good tastes.

And really, once you taste tomatillo salsa, I don't think you'll need much convincing. He makes his by roasting the fruits, then pureeing them with jalapenos, cilantro, onions, garlic, and a little bit of lime juice and salt. I tried it the other day, and I have to say, it's delicious.

If you're looking for tomatillos, they can be kind of tricky to find, but they are around. Silverbrook Farms grows them, and they sell at the Provincetown and Falmouth farmers' markets, and there are vendors selling them in Orleans and Wellfleet, too. Happy salsa season, everyone!


This salsa is amazingly easy. There is almost no chopping involved, and it takes total about 10 minutes to make. Then all you have to do is chill it!

1 lb fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 fresh jalapeno or serrano chillies
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
lime juice to taste

Preheat your oven broiler. Arrange the tomatillos, chillies, and garlic cloves on a baking sheet. Broil for about 7-8 minutes, or until the tomatillos are soft and a bit charred, turning occasionally. (I ended up taking some tomatillos out early and leaving the rest to roast a bit longer, as they cook at different rates depending on ripeness.)

Peel garlic and pull tops off of chillies. Puree in a blender or food processor along with tomatillos, cilantro, onion, salt, and lime juice. Chill before serving.


Andrea said...

That is almost my same recipe although I don't roast my tomatillos and I usually add in some green tomatoes if they are hanging around. I first planted tomatillos about 5 years ago and I've never actually planted a seed since. They are very happy to reseed themselves and don't seem to mind being moved around. I've learned (the hard way?) that although you need two to pollinate each other, you don't need more than that unless you are a market grower! I tend to foist them off on others like some do with zucchini. I love that they continue to bloom until a killing frost - the bees do too!

Elspeth said...

I always like a plant that will reseed itself. (Ok, maybe not weeds, but edible plants!) I haven't tried growing tomatillos yet but maybe next year's the year. We ate more salsa last night over panko-fried cod and it was delicious!

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