Consider Growing Tomatillos for your Market
Posted: October 26, 2012
They are native to Mexico. They like hot weather and are grown much like tomatoes. Start plants from seed indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost, and plant hardened transplants in full sun in mid to late May. Space plants about 3 feet apart and plant them into a mulched bed to keep the weeds out of the row. The plants get 3-4 feet tall. They should be staked up for easier harvest and best production, and do well in basket weave rows. Here is a great video that shows how to do the basket weave.
One tomatillo plant needs another tomatillo plant nearby to pollinate and set fruit. The plants will flower and attract the pollinating insects. Small fruit will start to develop inside papery husks which are really the calyx of the flower. As they ripen, they fill the husks with fruit that reach 1-2+ inches in diameter, depending on the variety. When the bottom of the husk splits open, the fruit are ready to harvest. Ripe tomatillo fruit will be firm, sticky on the outside, and have a slightly different color than the immature fruit. The green types turn slightly yellow when they mature. There are also purple varieties. Ripe tomatillos taste somewhat like a crisp, sweet lime and are excellent raw in fresh salsas or cooked in sauces. Extra tomatillos can be frozen or canned.
Tomatillos can be bothered by mites, aphids, European corn borer, flea beetle and a few other insect pests, but they are generally less bothered by diseases. In comparison to tomatoes, they have far less disease problems.
Another impressive attribute of tomatillos is their storage ability. They can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks, extending your marketing season. I have a few tomatillo plants in my home garden. I covered them the nights we got frost a week or so ago and I am still picking tomatillos in the end of October.
A small planting of tomatillos may be a good addition to your fresh market offerings in 2013. Some varieties to consider are: 'Cisineros' and 'Gigante' which have big fruit, 'Pineapple' which has a fruity flavor. There are several purple fruited varieties too, which would attract attention at your market.
Follow this link to a good fact sheet on growing tomatillos and the economics of production and sale:
- Educator, Horticulture