Tag Archives: tomatillo and avocado salsa

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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