Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tomatillo Time

The tomatoes may be taking their good ol' sweet time ripening, but their cousins the tomatillos are starting to come in. The platter of Plaza Latina Giant tomatillos that I showed in my harvest post last Monday and again above weighed in at about 2 pounds. The purple tomatillos are ripening and actually turning purple. I thought the fruit wasn't exposed to enough sun to turn them purple because they're in cages, but I was really just being impatient.

The big fat giant tomatillo that had the big cracks was quite ripe and when I sliced it in half to remove the spoiled part I found that the other half was perfectly good. That tomatillo had a distinct tropical fruit aroma and a nice fruity flavor. The greener ones that I picked because they seemed to be on the verge of cracking open as well were not quite as fragrant and fruity, but still had a very nice flavor. I roasted all those tomatillos and some went into a sauce for Queso Fundido and the rest went into Salsa Verde. I'm going to keep a closer eye on those giant tomatillos and try to wait until they are as ripe as possible before I pick them again.

Tomatillos can be picked as soon as they get large enough to break open their enclosing husks, although it seems like a lot of the tomatillos that I've seen at the store are picked as soon as they fill the husks. The husks start to dry out as the fruit ripens, and when fully ripe the fruit falls off the plant. Often times I harvest only the ones that fall off, but it seems that might not be possible with the giant ones. I think the ripe tomatillos are quite good raw in salsas and salads, but I prefer the more acidic green fruits cooked.

Queso Fundido

This is a hybrid of recipes that I culled from books and online that suited what I had on hand last night. Basically, it seems that you can just melt cheese in your favorite version of Tomatillo sauce. There were various recommendations for cheeses to use such as white cheddar, Manchego, mozzarella, goat, or more authentic Mexican cheeses such as Oaxaca or Chihuahua (don't know anything about those). Optional ingredients are sauteed chorizo sausage or fire roasted strips of poblano chiles. I decided to roast some of my glut of Pimento de Padron peppers and include those. Here's what I came up with and it was delicious, you take it from here....

1/4 cup raw pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1 thick slice of sweet onion such as Walla Walla
3 cloves garlic, not peeled
1/2 pound tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed to remove stickiness
olive oil, about a tablespoon
5 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
1 large ball of buffalo mozzarella (8 oz?), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
12 roasted Pimento de Padron peppers, stems and caps removed (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Toast the pepitas in a dry skillet until lightly browned and they stop popping. Remove from the skillet and let cool.

Brush the onion slice, garlic cloves, and tomatillos (I cut the giants in half) with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven 12 to 15 minutes until softened and the tomatillos are starting to release their juices. Peel the garlic cloves. Puree the vegetables along with the toasted pepitas in a blender until smooth. Add salt to taste.

Smear a shallow baking dish with a little bit of olive oil. I used a 10-inch terra cotta cazuela that I preheated over a low flame on the stove. Pour the warm sauce into the baking dish, scatter the cheeses evenly into the sauce, top with the peppers if using. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the cheeses are just runny.

Serve immediately with warm flour tortillas or tortilla chips, be prepared with plenty of napkins for a cheesey gooey mess.

My husband and I managed to devour most of this all by our porky selves... but it should be enough to serve 4 people as an appetizer.


  1. That sounds so tasty. I used to wait until my pineapple tomatillos fell to the ground before I harvested, but with the dreaded chipmunk deciding that they are tasty I have to pick them when their husks are just starting to turn yellow. If I wait any longer, I don't get any. Next year I'm going to cage my tomatillos so they don't take over the world.

  2. Michelle,
    Great article and thanks for the recipe too! We got 2 bags of tomatillos is our CSA weeklys and they gave us a salsa verde recipe. Never liked salsa verde it was always too hot for me. This recipe we have used three times I'm hooked I do believe. Next year we'll grow our own tomatillos.

  3. Daphne, those pesky rodents, I've had rats lately that seem to think that any seedlings I plant out are their private smorsgabord... This is the first year that I've caged my tomatillos and that's they only way I'll grow them now, it's much tidier, takes up less space and is easier to keep an eye on the fruits and pick them.

    Randy, thanks and you're welcome! My husband and I love salsa verde and making it youself allows you to control the spice. I came across a new recipe for it that includes roasted sweet corn - gotta try it.

  4. That's a great sounding recipe. Like a fondue, actually. . .

    Next year there has to be a better crop. I'll figure it out. I enjoyed the few I got this year.

  5. Oooh, giant tomatillos! Where did you get the seed? I've got to try those next year.

  6. Hi Jackie, I got the seeds through the Seed Savers Exchange yearbook, although the member does have a website where they offer most of their seeds to non SSE members. That information is not at my finger tips at the moment so I'll have to get back to you on that one...


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