When it comes to growing fresh fruit and vegetables in your garden, you really are spoiled for choice.
There are so many different options at your disposal and you can sometimes get paralyzed by choice and stuck for ideas.
If you have got the basics covered and want to branch out with something slightly less commonplace, it could be time to look at growing some purple tomatillos. If you enjoy Mexican food, this will be a great addition to your garden.
What Is a Purple Tomatillo?
Source: Milking Almonds
The tomatillo is native to Mexico. It’s one of the oldest fruit-bearing plants used as far back as 800BC by the Aztecs.
Physalis philadelphica has sweet purple fruits the size of marbles.
Physalis ixocarpa, frequently sold in markets, boasts large green fruits that ripen to a pale yellow. These have a very tart taste.
Fragile husks cover the tomatillo. Towards the end of summer, fruits dangle copiously from the branches.
Tomatillos are members of the nightshade family and they are a core If Mexican food. It’s the citrusy yet sweet flavor of tomatillos that give a kick to green salsa.
The purple tomatillo grows throughout the Americas apart from in the extreme north. It’s most prevalent in Mexico.
Uses for Purple Tomatillo
Source: A Growing Tradition
Tomatillos are a staple ingredient of the green sauces common to Mexican and Central American cooking.
With a tart flavor and vibrant green coloring, tomatillos are very widely used.
Purple tomatillo has a sweeter taste. They are great in jams and preserves.
You can keep ripe tomatillos in the fridge for a couple of weeks and they’ll still be good to eat. If you remove the husks and keep them in sealed Ziploc bags, they’ll last even longer. If you want some to last you through the colder seasons, pop them in the freezer.
Where To Grow Purple Tomatillo
Choosing the right growing site is key with any plant.
You’ll want to find somewhere with full exposure to the sun. Make sure that the soil is fairly rich and well-drained. Although the tomatillo is a wild plant, it is pretty intolerant of saturated soil.
Before you plant your seeds, it pays to mix in a few inches of compost. If you fork this over nicely, it will help with drainage if this is an issue.
If you’ve got heavy clay soil in your garden, raised beds are a great way to grow purple tomatillos.
Planting Purple Tomatillos
A couple of months before the last frost of the year, start your tomatillo seeds indoors.
Before transplanting them outdoors when the time is right, make sure to harden the plants first.
When then the soil is nicely warm and any realistic chance of frost is history, set them outside at the same time as you start your tomatoes.
Plant tomatillos deeply. The roots of the plant will sprout along the stem so it’s worth accommodating them properly for best results.
The purple tomatillo will grow up to 3 or 4 feet tall. You’ll get the same 3 or 4 feet in width. Make sure you keep your plants 3 feet apart. Space the rows 3 to 4 feet.
You can make use of tomato cages or trellis to give your tomatillos some added support.
If you are looking to cater for your own family cooking only, just 2 to 4 plants will be more than enough.
Growing Purple Tomatillos
If you are just starting out gardening or perhaps you just want something that will grow without too much interference, purple tomatillos make a smart choice.
They are prolific and will keep on producing until they are taken out of commission by the onset of frosts.
Put down about 2 or 3 inches of grass clippings or other organic mulch. This will keep the soil nice and moist while staving off intruding weeds.
Give them an inch or so of water once a week. They are fairly tolerant to drought but they prefer a little moisture.
You don’t need any fertilizer with purple tomatillos.
They really are a breeze to grow and incredibly rewarding.
Harvesting Purple Tomatillos
Once you have transplanted your seeds, you’ll be anywhere from 75 to 100 days from harvest.
When the husks are filled out and look on the verge of splitting, it’s time for harvest.
You can store them in their husks at room temperature for up to a week. If you put them in the fridge, they’ll be fine for as long as 3 weeks.
Make sure you harvest all your tomatillos. Chuck any that are rotten or overripe onto your compost. The last thing you want is self-sown seedlings so do a thorough job at harvesting time.
Maintaining Purple Tomatillos
As you’ve seen, tomatillos are extremely easy to grow.
They very seldom suffer from any insect pest problems or disease.
If you cage the tomatillo plants off the ground, this will keep them out of the reach of slugs and snails, protect them from early blight and allow air to circulate effectively.
Since they are not as heavy as tomatoes, the small wire cages you use for your tomatoes will be perfectly strong enough for your tomatillos as well.
Preparing Your Tomatillos
As with all aspects of the tomatillo, preparation is super-simple.
Just tear off the husks and give the fruits a wash. There is no need to core or seed them.
You can eat them raw or cook them so if you are stuck for inspiration, we’ll point you in the right direction of some mouth-watering recipes before we finish up.
Purple Tomatillo Recipes
Source: Andrea Myers
This site has some tasty purple tomatillo recipes along with great background information on this delicious nightshade.
We hope you have enjoyed this snapshot of the purple tomatillo.
One of the real pleasures of gardening is the ability to eat fresh, organic fruit and vegetables lovingly grown with your own hands. Do something different this year and try some tomatillos!
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