NZ Gardener - Garden Diary 2018 - - Growing Tips -

GREEN, STICKY-SKINNED, PA­PERY, HUSK-CLAD TOMATILLOS are the base in­gre­di­ent for salsa verde, an addictive Mex­i­can dip that’s de­li­cious with corn chips. Tomatillos aren’t of­ten seen at the su­per­mar­ket, al­though they do turn up sea­son­ally at farm­ers’ mar­kets. If you’ve got a han­ker­ing for these un­usual fruit, your surest source of sup­ply is to grow your own.

HOW TO GROW TOMATILLOS Cousins of toma­toes and cape goose­ber­ries, tomatillos (Physalis philadel­ph­ica syn. Physalis ixo­carpa) are for warm cli­mates or glasshouses only. These heat-lov­ing Mex­i­can plants have fairly sim­ple tastes: wa­ter, warmth and food. Sow seeds now in con­tain­ers (any ear­lier and they will sulk, un­less sown in a glasshouse) and trans­plant when 5-10cm high. Plant in free-drain­ing soil in full sun, in a shel­tered po­si­tion, and pump on the wa­ter and liq­uid fer­tiliser. The faster they grow, the faster they will flower – and set fruit. Lack of wa­ter dur­ing dry spells will lead to smaller fruit. Ex­pect to start har­vest­ing tomatillos 90-120 days after sow­ing. Healthy tomatillos are bushy and pro­lific, pro­duc­ing hun­dreds of fruit on a 1m plant. Watch out for white­fly and aphids in late sum­mer. The fruit are ripe when the husks feel loose and pa­pery but are still green. When over­ripe, tomatillos turn pale yel­low­ish-green and the husk dries out. Store in the fruit bowl for a cou­ple of weeks. Tomatillos are an­nu­als but they’ll self seed like cape goose­ber­ries if they are grow­ing in the right con­di­tions. Buy ‘Grande Verde’ tomatillo seed from Kings Seeds.

WHAT TO DO WITH TOMATILLOS Make SALSA VERDE. For au­then­tic Mex­i­can flavour, you’ll also need jalapeño chillies and lots of co­rian­der, so grow some of these too. A lime picked from your own tree would be an added bonus. Try this salsa verde recipe from Cui­sine mag­a­zine. Makes about 1 cup.

INGREDIENTS • 4 green toma­toes or tomatillos or 340g can tomatillos, drained • 3 fresh jalapeño chillies, de­seeded, or 10 slices of pick­led jalapeños • ½ onion, chopped • ¼ cup chicken stock or wa­ter • juice of 1 lemon • ¼ cup chopped co­rian­der

METHOD Put the toma­toes or tomatillos in a food pro­ces­sor, to­gether with the jalapeños, onion and the stock or wa­ter. Sea­son with salt and freshly ground black pepper then pulse un­til smooth. Trans­fer the salsa to a saucepan and bring to the boil then sim­mer for a few min­utes. Re­move from the heat, taste and sea­son with lemon juice then set aside to cool be­fore serv­ing. When ready to serve, stir in the chopped co­rian­der.

This CREAMY GRILLED TOMATILLO DIP is a tasty treat for guests at a bar­be­cue.

INGREDIENTS • 12 fresh tomatillos • 2 jalapeños (or 1, if you pre­fer a milder flavour) • ½ onion • ¼ cup chopped co­rian­der • juice of one lime • ¼ tea­spoon salt • 2 av­o­ca­dos, diced

METHOD Grill tomatillos and jalapeños un­til lightly charred on both sides. While they’re grilling, blitz half an onion, co­rian­der, lime juice and salt in a food pro­ces­sor. Add the hot, grilled chillies and tomatillos with their juices to the pro­ces­sor and blitz again. Do a taste test and add more salt or lime juice as re­quired. Let the mix­ture cool be­fore adding the av­o­cado. Serve with corn chips.

FREEZE YOUR TOMATILLOS If you have an ex­cess of tomatillos, you can freeze them whole for us­ing later. Peel away the pa­pery husks, wash and dry them, then snap freeze them be­fore stor­ing them in a freezer bag.

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