The Birds and the Bees – Part 2

Actually, this blog is just about bees.  Forget the birds.  Or go back and read the first Birds and the Bees, or easier yet, read today’s revelatory Andy’s Corner!

My father did not let me take high school biology.  And I never figured out why (and I never asked him; maybe I feared it would be an awkward conversation).

So I don’t know much about biology.  Not only did I not learn about “THE” birds and the bees in biology class, I didn’t even learn about pollination.  But you can teach an old dog and an old woman new tricks (mind you, “old” is not a word I really associate with myself – but it works in this context).  Physalis ixocarpa has helped me – about 60 years late – learn a little bit about plants and pollinating.  Google helped too.

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This summer – for the first time – I decided to plant tomatillos. We almost always have a few tomatillos in the fridge, sometimes kept too long and rotting, but I find them intriguing.  And they’re essential in some of my favorite Mexican recipes.

Since we don’t have a huge garden area, I put one tomatillo in a big clay pot (thanks, Swede’s Feeds, for having a great selection this spring – and for being a soothing spot to shop during the pandemic).  That tomatillo plant – with its teeny yellow blossoms – was so pretty, that about a month later I bought two more – a different variety – from Swede’s Feeds and planted them in another big clay pot.  The second plants are now gorgeous – filled with huge, billowing husks, baby tomatillos beginning to develop inside the husks, and visited regularly by the busiest of bees.  The first plant is withering.  Well, it’s got blossoms but no husks or baby tomatillos.

How was I supposed to know that I needed two plants, so that pollination could occur – unless, of course, I wanted to hand-pollinate them.   Right.  (If you think hand-pollinating is an easy option – check out this video.)

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The blossom of Physalis ixocarpa – better known as Tomatillo – and a nectar-loving bee

Just in case you’re scratching your head, not sure what a tomatillo looks or tastes like, here’s some help:

  • Like a tomato, a tomatillo is a member of the nightshade family.  But the similarity ends there.
  • Not only are tomatillos not self-pollinating (yes, tomatoes do self-pollinate), but they’re surrounded by a husk and are both tart and firm (think sour apple) when eaten raw.  And they’re usually – but not always – enjoyed more when they’re cooked.
  • The plants, native to what’s now Mexico,  were cultivated by the Mayans and Aztecs.
  • If you want green supermarket-style tomatillos, be sure to plant one of the larger hybrids, such as Super Verde.  Many tomatillo varieties are tiny – and a variety of colors.
  • Don’t be surprised if you have “volunteer” little upstarts the next growing season.
  • The genus name ‘physalis’ is from Ancient Greek – meaning “to blow up.”  Cute, huh?
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The billowing, blown-up husks of our tomatillo plants

Today we’ve got two new tomatillo recipes that are multi-purpose:  serve them as a salsa with tacos or burritos –  or serve them as a dip with chips and veggies.

And here are three of our favorite – and super-delicious – already-posted tomatillo recipes.

Chicken Pozole Verde

Chile Verde

Watermelon and Tomatillo Salad


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Ripe tomatillos – ready to be peeled and used

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Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa/Dip

adapted from Tacolicious, the cookbook, and Sara Deseran

  • 5 tomatillos husks removed
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 jalapeno chile stemmed and seeded
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 c loosely packed fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tsp Diamond kosher salt

Roast 3 tomatillos: turn on the broiler in your oven, with the rack about 4″ from the broiler.  On a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, broil the tomatillos until slightly charred and softened, about 10-12 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Add both the roasted and unroasted tomatillos to a blender, along with the avocado, chile, garlic, cilantro, cumin, lime juice, and salt and process until well blended.
Serve immediately or store in your fridge for 2-3 days.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.


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Fresh Tomatillo Salsa/Dip

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa/Dip

If the salsa gets a little watery (see our photo above) before you’re ready to serve, it’s easy to just spoon out a little of the liquid.

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • a few slices of serrano chile (or more – to taste)
  • 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • about 8 oz tomatillos (4 medium),  husked and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 c lightly packed chopped cilantro

Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend – until not quite smooth.  Serve with veggies and tortilla chips as a dip – or with tacos as a salsa.  It’s nice with fried eggs, too.  It will keep in the fridge for a few days.

A fun thing to do with remaining salsa – heat 2 T oil in a medium skillet, add about 1/3 c of the salsa, and simmer and stir for a few minutes.  Then add 4 lightly beaten eggs, salt and pepper them lightly, and cook and stir until the eggs are cooked to your liking and are mixed into the salsa.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.




  1. Bob Carleton says:

    Wonderful blog today! Don’t know which is better… the tomatillos or the book. Bought the book and will get to it as soon as I finish the “Indigenous People’s Guide to the U.S.” and “History of Norway.” Will look for tomatillos at the store. For sure!


    • theRaggedys says:

      For those of you who don’t get our emails, this is the book our friend Bob is referring to:
      Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods. What is so cool is that we learned from our Boulder friends that they were friends with the authors when they all lived in North Carolina. The book ties in with my blog on Bonobos 🙂


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