Grow your own salsa verde
Tomatillos, often referred to as Mexican husk, are similar to tomatoes in growth habit and are closely related to cape gooseberries, with the same papery husks which split when ripe. Use for making salsa verde.
SOW AND GROW
When to sow: September to November in warmer areas and October to December in cooler areas
When to transplant: November to January in warmer areas and December to February in cooler areas
Position: Full sun
Harvest: 13-17 weeks
Good for pots
Good for beginners
Tomatillos need warmth and a long growing season. In warmer areas, sow seed in containers in a sunny spot in spring, with seedlings planted outside 4-6 weeks later. In cooler areas, sow seed in a greenhouse or similar 8 weeks before the last expected frost, planting seedlings out only when the ground has warmed up.
Sow seed 6mm deep into containers of seed raising mix, firm gently and water lightly. Place the container in a warm, sheltered spot and keep moist. Germination takes 7-14 days. Plant out seedlings when they have 2 or 3 sets of leaves. Place them 70cm apart. You need at least two plants as tomatillos are not selfpollinators, but they’re very productive, so three is plenty for most households. For containers, use standard potting mix with extra compost added.
Tomatillos like a sunny, sheltered position in fertile well-drained soil with plenty of moisture in dry weather, particularly if grown in containers. Give young plants an occasional liquid feed, but not too much or leaf growth will overtake fruit yield. Flowers should appear in spring and early summer, and are pollinated by bees.
‘Grande Verde’ is a heavy cropping heirloom variety with large bright green fruits. ‘Toma verde’ matures early, and is also a prolific cropper. It and the heirloom variety Purple’’ both produce very sweet, large fruit.
Protect young stems and leaves from slugs and snails, and ensure there’s good air movement between plants to reduce fungal diseases which can develop in midsummer, particularly if your soil is not free-draining. Aphids and whitefly can be a problem, hose off regularly to prevent them building up.