Tomatillo

The tomatillo (toe-ma-tea-o) and the husk tomato are native to  Mexico and now grow everywhere in the Western Hemisphereand is common in home gardens.  Tomatillos are a good source of vitamin C. Husk tomatoes produce an edible fruit enclosed in a thick husk. Widely used in the cuisine of Mexico, fresh "tomatillos" ave a velvety parchment like covering which protects a smooth very shiny green tomato like fruit. To the uninitiated, "tomatillos" may appear to be just another unusual item in the produce section of super markets. "Tomatillos", in the cuisine of Mexico, are used for making many versions of fresh (raw), and cooked table "salsa" or "salsas caseras" ( house salsas ). Combined with onion, cilantro, "chiles serranos" or "chiles jalapenos", garlic, lime, tomatillos offer up a sharp tasting salsa that fits well with pork dishes. The fruit is somewhat crunchy with a tart flavor. The plants will grow to a height of three to four feet. The husk tomato has the same cultural requirements as the tomato: fertile soil, ample soil moisture and a long, warm growing season. A  southern sloped, raised bed dug in the fall, and one that warms in the early spring will work well for growing tomatillos. Use black plastic to cover your bed a few weeks before planting and this will warm the soil in preparation for transplanting. Before transplanting the tomatillos, work in at least an inch of compost into the bed. This should be enough nitrogen; too much will cause the plants to put on foliage with little fruit. The best soil pH for tomatoes is 6.2 to 6.5. Lime is needed if pH is less that 6.0. If pH is 6.5 or higher, minor plant foods such as iron and manganese should be applied to either soil or foliage. Sow the seeds indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost on almost any climate. When the danger of frost has passed, you can place the plants in your garden about 2 feet apart. They grow quickly if you provide lots of sun and water. Side dress with compost and water occasionally with "manure tea" once the plants have produced nut sized tomatoes. If your bushes start to get out of control, tomato cages may help keep things in line. Maintain deep mulch during the very hot months, and keep your plants well watered.

Tomatillos are very easy to cook with. Soaking fresh tomatillos in hot tap water, allows for easy removal of the husks. Remove one at a time and peel away husks, remove the stem attachment point with a paring knife. Tomatillos may be used fresh, roasted, or placed in a pot to simmer and used for sauces. Cook tomatillos either whole or cut in small pieces. Either way, steam them in a small amount of water in a covered saucepan for just about five to seven minutes. The result will be almost a sauce consistency, with the tiny seeds and bits of skin giving texture. Roasting tomatillos and other ingredients on a comal or frying pan produces a rustic and authentic flavor in dishes. Fresh ripe husk tomatoes will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks. If longer storage is desired, remove husks and place ripe fruit in sealed plastic bags and place in refrigerator. They may also be frozen whole or sliced. Tomatillos without doubt, are one of those unique ingredients that are truly Mexican. To add a really authentic touch to your cooking, nothing is easier than growing and preparing tomatillos.

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Although spring is traditionally thought of as the time to start a  vegetable garden, many vegetables can be planted to late June,July and August for harvest in September and October. Among the vegetables which can be grown for fall harvest are peas, cabbage, lettuce and other crops which do best in cooler temperatures. Many are frost tolerant and their flavor actually improves after a light frost. This type of gardening maximizes use of garden space, since new crops may be put in after early spring crops such as peas, leaf lettuce and radishes are harvested.

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It is possible to use seeds that have been leftover one or more years if they have been stored properly: Exceptions to this rule are: onions, parsley, parsnip, and salsify. Vegetable seeds store best under conditions that provide relatively cool temperatures (32-40 degrees F.), a relative humidity of 40 to 50% or lower, and a low moisture  content in the seeds; about 7 to 10%. Seeds held in moisture proof and vapor proof containers store better than seeds exposed to the atmosphere, if packed at their optimum moisture content.

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An interesting way to deter cutworms is to stick a 10-penny finishing nail on either side of the main stem of each seedling as you plant. You need to leave about 1½ inches of each nail showing above the soil surface. Cutworms curl themselves around a stem, girdling it as they feed. The width of the nail confuses the caterpillar and  keeps it from wrapping its body around the stem. Or maybe as the worm tries to eat around the stem, it bites into the nail and ruins its teeth! Just make sure to pick up the nails when you pull the plants in the fall so you can save them for another year.

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Brandie

"Man is wise and constantly in quest of more wisdom; but the ultimate wisdom, which deals with beginnings, remains locked in a seed."

 

 

 

 

 
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