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Garden Tips. How to grow the Tomatillo, the Tomatoes cousin.

Tomatillos are known for being used in authentic Mexican cuisine and are catching on in American dishes. ingredients
Creative Commons License photo credit: ercwttmn

But I first heard about Tomatillos when I was making jams and jellies. They had a recipe for a Tomatillo Jam that everyone was raving over. I have made jams and jellies from tomatoes, which are wonderful, so I decided I would have to try growing Tomatillos.

They are a rather funny looking vegetable growing in the garden. The plants resemble tomato plants in look and growing conditions.  But they are a small green fruit that will turn yellow when it’s really ripe and grows in an odd shaped papery skin. As they mature the skin will open and expose the fruit.

I always enjoy growing a new crop so the first year was an adventure. They are easy to grow and produce well so the crop was a huge success.

If you have never grown them before just remember that they are a warm weather crop and love heat. With this in mind choose a site that gets full sun and has well-drained soil that’s not too rich. A pH reading that’s close to neutral (7.0) is good for them.

How to grow the tomatillo

You will need to start Tomatillo seeds 6 to 8 weeks in advance of your last frost or when you plan to set them out into the garden. They cannot handle cold nights or any frost!

I had to start my plants. Our local greenhouses don’t carry them and I live in a zone 5 and need the plants to have a head start for my cooler climate.

If you start seeds, treat the seeds and seedling just like you would tomato seedlings. If you live in a warm climate you can plant them directly into the ground.

Whether you start you seeds or purchase plants you need to harden off the plants before putting them in the ground. To do this slowly expose them to direst sunlight usually an hour at a time each day and if they show signs of wilting move them to shade. A week will usually harden the plants to sun and wind condition.

Hardening off plants is very important! Many people skip this step and the plants suffer from stress and they are set back later in producing crops. Sometimes they will actually die.

After the plants are hardened off plant them in the garden. Spacing is the same as tomato plants and will depend on if you stake the plants or let them sprawl on the ground. I always stake my plants. I have better control over controlling insects and they are cleaner.109::365 tomatillo flower
Creative Commons License photo credit: .j.e.n.n.y.

Water when the ground is dry and if possible use a deep watering method that directs the water into the soil and does not just let water spread on the surface of the ground.  I apply a light fertilizer when I plant them, when they first start to blossom and about three weeks later.

The Tomatillos are ready to harvest when the fruits are firm and husks are papery and straw-colored. Usually the husks will break open when they are ripe. If they don’t, simply test them with a gentle squeeze to check ripeness.

Tomatillos are one of those garden plants that are just fun to plant and grow. The husks can also be used in crafting.

If you are having any tomatillo crop problems this article might help: Tomatillo and tomato growing problems

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Denise

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