WITH A TANGY, CITRUSY FLAVOR, TOMATILLOS SURPASS TOMATOES WHEN YOU NEED A LITTLE ZIP. —Stefanie Gans, Lindsey Jenkins, Molly Jacob & Rachel Saenz
found in translation In 800 B.C.E. the Aztecs cultivated tomatillos, or miltomatl, which means “round and plump with paper.” Tomatillos (“little tomatoes” in Spanish) are also known as jamberries, ground cherries or, because of their look, husk tomatoes. When ripe, tomatillos can be green, yellow or purple and are tangy and sweet.
easy gardening Tomatillos are easy to maintain and don’t require rich soil or fertilization once they’ve been planted. “They’re very similar to tomatoes, so they grow bushy and get pretty tall,” says Matt Nolan of Manahoac Farm. “I’d suggest seeding tomatillos in flat trays indoors, in the early spring,” says Nolan, and “plan on transplanting them first or second week of May.” Harvesting takes place this month.
‘celebratory rhythmic expression’
“The song was built around Mexican and Cuban influences, and carried a positive celebratory rhythmic expression while at the same time incorporating some harmonic dissonance, or ‘tartness,'” jazz musician Jay Oliver, who co-wrote “Tomatillo” with Dave Weckl over 20 years ago, wrote in an email.
“We therefore chose a title that represented both ‘tart’ and ‘festive’. Since tomatillo salsa is the culinary representation of these combined essences, we chose the obvious name.”
a proper bulge When picking tomatillos, the ripe ones will fill out the papery, brown husk and glow a rich, green color. Keep tomatillos in their husks and place them in a bag for up to three weeks in the refrigerator.
no mistaken identity While tomatillos can trade places with tomatoes in plenty of recipes—gazpacho, guacamole, bloody mary—a white bean chili is somewhere a tomato would never be welcome.
In this application, Tina Leigh, a raw vegan chef and author of “Balanced Raw” (June 2013), suggests blending tomatillos with cilantro, cumin, lime juice, green chilies, avocado, peppers and cashew cream to create a silky sauce for white beans. Tomatillos can be “kind of sticky and they can be intimidating,” Leigh admits, but offer a zippy flavor that tomatoes can’t match.