Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tomatillo, Physalis ixocarpa

Purple Tomatillo  
Physalis ixocarpa

Both the tomatillo and its close relative the Cape Gooseberry (Physalis macrocarpa) are welcome weeds in my garden . They set fruit during late summer and autumn and then return again the next year without any trouble or special cultivation. Though green is the normal colour for the tomatillo, even when ripe, the purple variety pictured here is slightly sweeter and less tart flavoured. An article I was reading about them in the Los Angeles Times called the tomatillo "a green sourpuss with a sweet side".
I use them to make salsa to have as an accompaniment to barbecue chicken or prawns, from recipes obtained from the terrific little book pictured below. One called salsa tepozteco includes the unusual ingredient of an avocado leaf which is toasted first and then ground. It has a warm anise flavour when used in this way. I don't have an avocado tree but young seedling trees are always coming up in my compost from discarded pips. Tomatillos are also good to use in gaucamole verde and can be used to replace the normal lime juice as a key ingredient.
I guess the reason the tomatillo has never made it onto the supermarket shelf is that they have to be fairly ripe and soft to have the best flavour very much like a real tomato which is best when picked fresh and used straight away.They are so easy to grow I am not sure why they are not better known.
Salsa by Reed Hearon
published by Chronicle Books
San Francisco

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