Learn how experts grow and harvest tomatillos in a home vegetable garden. Tomatillos are the odd-looking distant cousins of the tomato family. These plants are native to Central America.
Widely, these plants are usually growing with corns and beans. Nowadays, the fruits are easily sold in the local markets so everyone can enjoy buying and eating them.
What about planting the plants yourself? Why not? Learn the quick guide on how to grow the plants as follows:
Make sure you know what fruit you are going to grow to plan an intensive plantation for better harvesting. Many people like to grow the plants today as they are much tarter than other fruits, making them a good choice for dishes like salsa verde. However, their leaves, stems, and husk are all toxic.
As mentioned, tomatillos are in the same family as tomatoes, but their flavors and appearance are not comparable. Tomatillos’ leaves are heavily serrated.
They also have five-petaled yellow flowers and dark splotches at the base. The fruits are round and covered in a papery husk, looking like hanging lanterns while they are growing.
When the fruits are matured, they fill out the husk completely and split open to reveal the fruits inside. Once the color turns yellow, you can barely pick them up and enjoy eating them.
There are some tomatillos varieties that you should know before you start growing one of them. Cisineros is a variety that produces very large green fruits, while Di Milpa and Pineapple varieties have smaller sizes. Pineapple produces sweet-tasting fruits like the Purple variety. However, the Purple variety comes in a larger size.
Other varieties are Toma Verde and Verde Puebla. Both of them are green varieties, but the latter has large fruits.
In addition to the green varieties, there is also a purple variety that is interesting to male salsa-purple. Though the seeds are not available, you can find them in the online green store.
Now that you know there is more than one variety of tomatillos, you can decide which variety you will grow in your garden, either indoor or outdoor.
The Best Time For Planting Tomatillos
Knowing the best time for planting tomatillos is important if you want the best result from growing the plants and harvesting them. If you prefer planting the plants indoors, start 4 weeks before the last frost. Later, start the seedlings about 2 weeks after you plant your tomatoes.
If you stay in the low desert of Arizona, the best time to start seedlings indoors in the middle of December up to the middle of January and May.
You can also start tomatillos seedlings in June. On the other hand, if you want to plant outside, plant in the middle of February up to March and in the middle of July.
In every plantation plan, soil prep always becomes a primary thing to do. Tomatillos grow in the summer garden like their families, such as eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers. The leaves appear like eggplant’s leaves, but the fruits look like no other.
It is very easy for the plants to propagate based on the guide to growing and harvesting tomatillos. Yes, tomatillos can be simply propagated from the fruit’s pulp that you have saved before. Here are the complete steps to carry out the propagation;
- Soak the squeeze-out tomatillo pulp in a bit of water until you notice the mold forming on the top. This will allow for seeds removal out of the gel coating.
- Rinse the seeds well and place them on a paper plate for drying. You should not use a paper towel to dry the seeds as they will stick.
- Once the seeds are thoroughly dry, put them in a paper envelope. Store them in a cool and dark place. Save these seeds to plant in the next spring.
Sometimes, tomatillos self-seed in the garden, meaning that the fruits fell to the ground and are left to rot. These can be volunteer seedlings that you can carefully transplant elsewhere in your garden.
Tomatillos Plantation Procedures
Now we get to the main topic: the steps on how to grow and harvest tomatillos. There is nothing to worry if tomatillos nursery seedlings are not available in your local town. The plants are very easy to grow from seeds. Follow these simple steps:
- Start the seed propagation as we have explained.
- As the plants are very sensitive to cold temperatures, wait until the soil has warmed.
- Allow the seedlings to harden off before they enter the planting session.
- Make sure the night temperature is 55 degrees F or higher.
- Like tomatoes, tomatillos will produce roots along the stems, requiring you to plant the seed deeply.
- The plants will be able to grow up to 2 or 3 feet tall.
There are several things to care for tomatillos when they are starting to grow. In this case, you need to care for the plants by maintaining the soil, giving enough water, providing light, keeping the temperature and humidity stable, and using fertilizers.
Maintain The Soil Well
To ensure the excellent growth of tomatillos, make sure you add plenty of organic matter to the soil before starting the plantation. This way, tomatillos love a well-drained and neutral soil pH around 6.5 to 7.0.
However, for the most part, the plants will be able to easily grow anywhere as long as there is full sunlight and regular water.
Tomatillos trees will produce many fruits and remain healthy as long as you locate the plants in a spot full of sun. This means that the plants need lots of sunlight to grow and produce fruits.
Giving Enough Water
Just because tomatillos are drought-tolerant doesn’t mean that you don’t need to give enough water to the plants. This way, giving an adequate amount of water will help the plants thrive well. So, it is best to provide about 1 inch of water per week.
Keeping The Temperature and Humidity Stable
Tomatillos thrive well in climates with very hot summers. Humidity is not a factor to consider seriously.
Believe it or not, there is no need to give fertilizers to the plants. In our gardening guide to grow and harvest tomatillos, tomatillos do not need any fertilizers. You need only to maintain the soil by working in some compost before planting the plants.
Giving Plenty of Room
Tomatillos are large and sprawling. Thus, you are required to give plenty of room. This way, the space you must provide is about 2 ½ feet apart. Tomatillos are also good to plant in a pot or container with a size of approximately 5-gallon.
Tomatillos are easy to leave to sprawl on the ground. However, trellising them makes harvesting easier to carry out.
Plant More Than One Tomatillos Tree
Since tomatillos cannot self-pollinate, you need to grow more than one tomatillos tree. These plants need at least one other tomatillos plant nearby to produce fruits. This way, pollination will occur between the plant’s trees.
Tomatillos Companion Plants
It is always important to add companion plants around the primary plants in most gardening tips. It is aimed to help control the pests.
For tomatillos, onions are considered good to plant around. Though there are particular pests attacking tomatillos, the leaves are susceptible to the common suspects, including potato beetles, cucumber beetles, and other leaf-loving bugs.
Onions have a strong smell that the beetles don’t like. That’s why onions are good to add as tomatillos companion plants.
In growing plants, harvesting is the last step of gardening. Before producing flowers and fruits, tomatillos usually grow in height with lots of leaves. You can expect to harvest the fruits in 75 to 100 days.
Note that the plants continue producing the fruits until they are frost. Look for the moment when the husk starts to split open, making the fruits fill out. Harvest the fruits before they split. The fruits will get sweeter and sweeter as they mature.
If you want to store the fruits, keep them in their husks. Later, you can put them in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, they cannot last for long. They will last only for a couple of weeks. So, it is better to eat them up.
Tomatillos are one of the ingredients used in Mexican salsas. All in all, tomatillos are easy to grow and delicious to eat.
When you decide to grow and harvest tomatillos, you are performing a fantastic way of adding a new and unusual edible to your garden.
You should have no problems growing their green cousins if you love growing tomatoes, right?