Ingredient Spotlight: Tomatillo

2008_06_25-Tomatillo.jpgA lot of people think this is an unripe green tomato, but it isn’t. It certainly looks like a tomato, but it’s covered with a paper husk on the outside. What is it?

It’s a tomatillo. While a member of the same nightshade family as the tomato, it is not a tomato. I’m originally from Georgia, and one day after I moved to California, I craved fried green tomatoes. I was shocked that I couldn’t find green fryers in the markets, and asked around – “where can I find green tomatoes?” All my California friends kept pointing at tomatillos, not understanding that they are not green tomatoes.

Tomatillos were first cultivated by the Aztecs. The name “tomatillo” comes from the Aztec “miltomatl,” which means “round and plump with paper.” (The Aztecs called tomatoes “xitomatl.”) Tomatillos are also called husk tomatoes and Mexican tomatoes. They’re an essential ingredient in salsa verde and other Latin American dishes. They taste great roasted or grilled and added to guacamole. Select green tomatillos with green husks; if they are yellow with brown husks, they are past their prime. They can keep in the fridge for two weeks. Don’t remove the husks until you are ready to cook with them; the husks maintain their freshness. They have a slightly tart taste.

(Image: Kathryn Hill)