Tomatillos can be a very foreign piece of produce if you’ve never even held one. I know, because that was my predicament. But I really wanted to try my hand at a homemade verde sauce (tomatillo salsa), so off to the store I marched.
I came home with 2 pounds of fresh tomatillos, and made that verde sauce the very next day. But I had to do my research to know exactly how to choose them, and what to do with them once I got them home. This is a collection of the information I found.
What it looks like
Tomatillos have a thin, papery layer called a husk, over the fruit. Once that layer is peeled back, it’s just like a tomato, only green.
When cut open, they have white flesh with small, yellowish seeds.
What they’re used for
Tomatillos are used heavily in Mexican recipes. They are used for Salsa Verde recipes, they can be fried and served with dipping sauce, or even used in curry, soups or jam, sweet sauce or margaritas!
What it tastes like
They are tart and remind me a lot of a lemon, but with far less pucker.
Selecting good produce
This was the part that stumped me the most. But it turned out to be very, very simple. When you select your tomatillos, feel through the husk to be sure the fruit underneath is firm and smooth all around. You can peel back the husk just slightly to see the color of the tomatillo as well. Be respectful of people who may want to purchase a tomatillo that you don’t by peeling just a tiny bit, enough to see the color underneath. You want it to be bright green. If you feel bumps through the husk, put it back because this sort of thing is most likely what you will end up with.
Make sure the husk is a nice green color and that the tomatillo fills most of it. If there is a lot of air between the husk and the fruit inside, pass it up for another. Basically, the husk should be a nice, easy fit over the fruit. If it seems like the fruit is much smaller than the husk, it’s probably not a good option. You may have to feel a few of these to get an understanding of what feels right.
And lastly, when you take a peak under the husk, be sure you don’t see any cracks. Small ones aren’t the end of the world, but you really want a nice, smooth and unbroken skin.
First and foremost, do not peel the husk off until you are ready to use the tomatillos. With that layer in tact, they can last a couple of weeks. Some people say you can keep them on the countertop, but I vote for the fridge. Most things seem to last longer and stay safer in the fridge.
When you are ready to use them, simply peel back the papery layer. It’s easiest to start peeling at the bottom end.
Peel it completely off…
… then pull the stem off along with the papery husk.
You will notice that there is some stickiness involved. You’ll feel it on your fingers. Simply wash the tomatillos in water or a produce cleaner. If you find that water isn’t doing the trick, you can also wipe them down with a little white vinegar and it will come right off. You don’t want to eat that sticky stuff.
How to prepare them
What you do with them at this point will depend on your intended recipe. They can be enjoyed raw or broiled/roasted. If you want to broil them, place them on a baking sheet (no oil) and roast them under the broiler, making sure that the shelf you set them on is about 4 inches from the broiler flame. You will broil them for approximately 4-5 minutes on one side, turn them over and roast them for 3-4 minutes on the other side. You want them to blister. Some of them may collapse if they get too much heat. If that happens, simply scoop up the tomatillo and the juices for your recipe.
Clean Eating Recipes For Tomatillos
As I mentioned above, this was my first time using them. So while this section of my Food Guides will typically have a link to recipes here on my blog, I won’t have one to link to here until my next post goes live. So stay tuned for the Clean Eating Salsa Verde recipe coming up next and more recipes coming up in the future.
What to do with a lot of tomatillos
If you grow them or somehow end up with a large amount of tomatillos, follow the steps for cleaning them, make sure they are dry and then simply freeze them. It’s best to freeze them on a cookie sheet first so they don’t stick together. But if you don’t have room for that, you can put them in a zipper-top storage bag, be sure to squeeze the air out as much as possible, and store in the freezer for up to 10-12 months.