Species: Physalis ixocarpa
Conditions: Rich soil, soil temperature above 65°F (18°C), after all risk of frost has passed. They set more fruit if they cross-pollinate, so it is recommended to have more than one plant. Choose a spot with lots of sun, and sheltered from wind.
Calendar for Hardiness 6B
April – July
Cooking: From last year’s crop: in boiling water from frozen whole, or preserved salsa.
Start: In April, start seed indoors about 5 weeks prior to planting outdoors. Bury seeds 1/8″ (3 mm) deep, and provide at least 8 hr of bright light, either by a sunny window or with grow lights. There are some bush varieties, but for the most part tend to grow quite “leggy” if the light is insufficient.
Transplant: In late May, about a week after planting tomatoes outside, transplant to their final location, by marking spots 1 ft (30 cm) apart from each other, and setting up a tomato cage or another trellising system, because once they start growing, they can easily become unruly if not trained to the support. Dig a hole about 2″ (5 cm) bigger than the root ball, pour some water, then fill partially with soil; sprinkle a little Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) and compost, and water again before setting the seedlings lower than the original soil line in the pot; fill the spot with more soil and pat down gently. Similar to tomatoes, tomatillos will develop more roots if part of the stem is buried at planting time. Keep moist but do not overwater. Young tomatillo plants might be attacked by flee beetles, but spraying with water will wash them off, and once the plants are established they are usually pest free.
Care: They are resilient to dryness, but will grow larger fruit if watered consistently. A sprinkle of compost or sheep manure every month keeps the roots underground and the plants strong.
August – October
Cooking: Enjoy in raw salsa, and cooked in salsas and stews. Tomatillos keep for several weeks in their husks in a plastic container in the fridge, so save enough for preserving when the weather cools down. Alternatively, peel, wash and dry, and they can be packed whole in freezer bags and store frozen until needed, by simply dumping in boiling water to cook.
Harvest: Pick when the green papery wrappers that cover the fruit start to open from the fruit bursting inside. The greener the fruit, the tangier the salsa, which is desirable in general, except perhaps for the purple varieties, which show their colour as they mature, and are good and pretty in raw salsas.
Saving seed: For open pollinated varieties
Care: Continue caring; although watering may be reduced, do not let dry out; clip tips and blooms, they will not have enough time to develop fruit before the end of the season.
Cooking: Prepare cooked salsa, bottle and process to preserve. Cook from frozen.
Gardening: Pull plants and compost or dispose as yard waste. Flatten soil and mulch.
December – March
Cooking: From frozen or preserved bottled salsa.
Gardening: Check catalogues for varieties, order seed. Patiently (or impatiently) wait for next April.
Purple Organic bought at Lowe’s – 2013
Toma Verde from Vesey’s catalogue – 2017
Notes: Tomatillos are a great crop to have in a Canadian plot, since it is hard to find them fresh at stores; many great dishes and salsas require fresh tomatillos, to use raw or to roast before further cooking. After saving seeds the first year, It will also provide a year-round zero-mile supply for locavores.