Tomatillos, Salsa, and the Summer Garden


The flavor of tomatillos  is one of the wonderful flavors of summer. This is their glory time, when the plants I have stuck into odd corners have tangled themselves throughout the rest of the bed and are making fruits, almost hidden, which are a fascinating mixture of sweet, tangy, and tart when roasted. Right now tomatillos are ripening  in their husks and I can make one of my favorite salsas. This is an old Rick Bayless recipe, modified only slightly, and couldn’t be easier or more full of flavor. Start with about 30 large tomatillos (mine were about 2 inches in diameter) or maybe 50 smaller ones. Remove husks, rinse, and set in a single layer on a baking tray covered with aluminum foil.   Put five cloves of garlic on the baking sheet off to one side where they won’t burn, still in their skins. Broil under high heat until they look cooked on the top and have black spots, turn them over, and broil until that side is cooked.

Image borrowed from no

Image borrowed from no

Cool a little, skin the garlic cloves, and put the tomatillos and their juices and the garlic in the food processor.  Add at least two canned chilies chipotle in adobo and their associated juice, more if you like it hot. I like 4 large chipotles in this quantity of sauce.  Grind to the degree that you prefer. I like a chunky texture.


Now, I add the quintessentially Mexican step of frying the salsa.  In my largest skillet I heat 2 tablespoons of chosen fat, in this case fat from my homemade bacon. When the fat is hot, pour in the pureed salsa. It should sizzle furiously.  Fry it over high heat for a couple of minutes, until it has thickened to the degree that you want.  Salt to taste, and it is ready to use. The frying step smooths and blends the flavors in a delicious way. It’s good hot on grilled or smoked meat, gratineed with cheese, room temp with chips, or any way you like to eat salsa. I especially like the tangy-smoky flavor on grilled vegetables or mixed into cooked greens just before serving, or on top of them with a good sprinkling of Cotija or queso fresco. At the top of the page you see my lunch today, a little piece of leftover steak sliced and broiled with salsa and smoked cheddar on top, a fitting reward for the very minimal labor of making the salsa.

Incidentally, in the past I have grown several different kinds of tomatillos including the small purple ones that are supposed to have a more pronounced flavor, and at least under my growing conditions they all tasted pretty much the same. The small ones  are more tedious to pick and involve a great deal more labor in preparation per unit of finished salsa, and so I grow the biggest ones I can find.

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by The Smiling Pilgrim on July 19, 2016 at 11:04 pm



  2. Hi Heather,
    I was put off of growing tomatillos because mine were always smaller than what I thought was supposed to be average. I just couldn’t do anything to make them bigger!:) Your post gives me hope that I can find a larger fruiting variety that might work around here. Do you have any suggestions?


  3. Posted by wooddogs3 on July 20, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    The one I am growing is the Mexican Strain from Territorial Seeds. I save my own tomatillo seeds and am probably four generations from the initial seed purchase, and they remain about 2 inches in diameter. Every now and then in Mexican markets in this area I see some really huge ones, 3 inches or even more in diameter, but I can’t find any seeds for a strain like that. I’ve tried buying some of the very large fruits and saving seeds, but they have not done well. Maybe they are a GMO of some sort.
    Anyway, 2 inches in diameter is large enough to be reasonably efficient in the gathering and preparing.


  4. Great post Azar. I’m contemplating growing tomatillos for the first time (over here in Australia), and I’ll take the tip to try for a large fruit variety if I can.

    Happy homesteading,




  5. Oops, sorry – was writing to Wooddogs3, of course …


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