It’s that time of year, when fruit and vegetables are entering and exiting the kitchen faster than bemused lovers in a French farce. Bags of windfall quinces, cooking apples and boxes of plums are competing for space in the fridge and the green tomatoes (salvaged from the outdoor blighty plants) are attracting fruit flies on the work surface. Pasta sauces, stewed fruit, jams, jellies, pickles and chutneys are being bottled, frozen and consumed in large quantities, so it’s a relief occasionally to make a dish which needs no cooking and for which little chopping is required.
Spice It Up
Some of my favourite ingredients at this time of year are the spicy curry vegetables, fruit and herbs which we use for the Thai, Indian and Mexican dishes which we love. This year’s crop of tomatillos started ripening this week and the first tubful arrived from the allotment accompanied by thechorus – supporting roles being provided by ‘Red Czech’ garlic, ‘Numex Twilight’ chilli, red onions, Vietnamese coriander and tomatoes.
Supporting roles are being played by my chillies, red onions and garlic
The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica or Physalis ixocarpa) is originally from Mexico and belongs to the Solanaceae family along with tomatoes, potatoes, cape gooseberries, aubergines and deadly nightshade. The fruits look similar to green tomatoes (although they can also be purple) and are encased in a papery husk. Unlike cape gooseberries, which I find crop late and produce poor harvests in my garden, tomatillos crop heavily outside, with 2-3 plants providing easily enough fruit for a family. Given space, the stems will bend and trail along the ground, often rooting from the trailing stems, creating even more productive plants. I’ve grown tomatillos for three years and the only issue I’ve encountered was last year when my seeds proved tricky to germinate, but in other years I’ve not had the same problems.
These cherry-sized fruits taste like slightly tart tomatoes, but with a lime tang which gives the flavour added depth. I’ve used them fresh in salsa and guacamole, and a summer glut can easily be halved, frozen and then added to soups or casseroles at the beginning of cooking which gives the final dish a mellow fruity flavour.
This year’s first tomatillo harvest disappeared swiftly into salsa – served with homemade mackerel pate on toast…
Couple of handfuls of tomatillos removed from their casing and washed (don’t remove until you plan to use them as it help to keep the fruits fresh)
Equal amounts of cherry tomatoes
1-3 chillies depending on variety and personal taste, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small red onion, finely chopped
Juice from 1/2 – 1 lime
Handful of Vietnamese coriander (or annual coriander), finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the ingredients together in a blender
Add extra salt, chilli and/or lime juice to taste
Once the salsa is complete, the curtain can rise on a Mexican banquet or it can be enjoyed in my favourite way – with nachos, soured cream and our homegrown pickled chillies for supper with desperados (or in my case, a gluten-free beer like Celia).
Now I’m hungry! Time to make another batch of salsa…
I buy my tomatillo seeds from Suttons (who are also selling tomatillo plants for 2018) and from Real Seeds. I’ve grown purple and green varieties – both crop really well and taste great.
Other ‘plot to plate’ recipes using our garden, allotment and hedgerow harvests include:
If you’d like to follow my blog and hear about the next ‘plot to plate’ experiment, you can click below to subscribe. Thanks very much and happy gardening…