Tomatillo/Husk tomato/Physalis philadelphica

The tomatillo or husk-tomato (Physalis philadelphica) is a solanaceous plant cultivated in Mexico and Guatemala and originating from Mesoamerica. Various archaeological findings show that its use in the diet of the Mexican population dates back to pre-Columbian times. Indeed, vestiges of Physalis sp. used as food have been found in excavations in the valley of Tehuacan (900 BC-AD 1540). In pre-Hispanic times in Mexico, it was preferred far more than the tomato (Lycopersicon sp.). However, this preference has not been maintained, except in the rural environment where, in addition to the persistence of old eating habits, the tomato’s greater resistance to rot is still valued. Possibly because of the fruit’s colourful appearance and because there are ways of eating it which are independent of the chili (Capsicum sp.), the tomato achieved greater acceptance outside. Mesoamerica and Physalis sp. was marginalized, or its cultivation was discontinued, as happened in Spain. It is relevant to note that only in central Mexico is the fruit of Lycopersicon sp. known chiefly as “jitotomate”, since in other parts of the country and in Central and South America it is called “tomate”.

Mesoamerica and Physalis sp. was marginalized, or its cultivation was discontinued, as happened in Spain. It is relevant to note that only in central Mexico is the fruit of Lycopersicon sp. known chiefly as “jitotomate”, since in other parts of the country and in Central and South America it is called “tomate”. P. philadelphica was domesticated in Mexico from where it was taken to Europe and other parts of the world; its introduction into Spain has been well documented. Indeed, it is believed that this species originated in central Mexico where, at present, both wild and domesticated populations may be found.The name “tomato” derives from the Nahuatl “tomatl”; this word is a generic one for globose fruits or berries which have many seeds, watery flesh and which are sometimes enclosed in a membrane. Of the great number of species of the genus Physalis, very few are used for their fruit. P. peruviana L. has been grown in Peru since pre-Columbian times. The fruit of P. chenopodifolia is picked in the state of Tlaxcala, Mexico. In Europe, P. alkekengi is grown as an ornamental plant because of the colourful calyx of its fruit, and its fruit also is used in central and southern Europe.The tomatillo has been a constant component of the Mexican and Guatemalan diet up to the present day, chiefly in the form of sauces prepared with its fruit and ground chilies to improve the flavour of meals and stimulate the appetite.

The tomatillo is also used in sauces with green chili, mainly to lessen its hot flavour. The fruit of the tomatillo is used cooked, or even raw, to prepare purees or minced meat dishes which are used as a base for chili sauces known generically as salsa verde (green sauce): they can be used to accompany prepared dishes or else be used as ingredients in various stews. An infusion of the husks (calyces) is added to tamale dough to improve its spongy consistency. as well as to that of fritters: it is also used to impart flavour to white rice and to tenderize red meats. P. philadelphica is an annual of 15 to 60 cm: it is subglabrous. sometimes with sparse hairs on the stem. The leaf lamina is 9 to 13 x 6 to 10 mm; its apices are acute to slightly acuminate, with irregularly dentate margins and two to six teeth on each side of the main tooth. of 3 to 8 mm. The pedicels are 5 to 10 mm, the calyx has ovate and hirsute lobules measuring 7-13 mm. The corolla is 8 to 32 mm in diameter, yellow and sometimes has faint greenish blue or purple spots. The anthers are blue or greenish blue. The calyx is accrescent, reaching 18 to 53 x 11 to 60 mm in the fruit, and has ten ribs. The fruit is 12 to 60 x 10 to 48 mm in size and sometimes tears the calyx.

There are many local or indigenous varieties of P. philadelphica which producers recognize by fruit color and size as well as by the plant’s growth habit although, within these varieties, there is wide variation, possibly because of their self-incompatibility. The wild forms are very often found growing in cultivated fields in traditional agricultural systems, mainly in combination with maize, beans and gourd. In Mexico, another type of tomato is found which is sold on the markets as wild from cultivated fields. In actual fact, it is a cultivated tomato with a small fruit; the reason for this fraudulence lies in the fact that the price of wild tomatoes growing in cultivated fields is double that of the cultivated tomatoes.

Salsa Verde/Green Sauce

2 lbs Tomatillos; husked and washed
1 small onion
2-4 cloves Garlic
1/4 cup Cilantro
2-4 Combination of Padron or Jalapeno Peppers (or other peppers of your choice); to taste & desired heat level
Kosher Salt

Place washed and husked Tomatillos on a baking sheet, along with your choice of peppers
Broil for 1-2 minutes, or until skins are beginning to brown & blister (cooking time may depend on size of tomatillos, for larger tomatillos, recommend roasting at a lower temperature)Turn Tomatillos and Peppers and return to broiler until beginning to brown. Take peppers and place in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap to allow steam to soften the skin and make it easier to remove.

Peel the peppers and remove stems. Set aside. Place all ingredients except peppers and salt in to the blender, and puree until smooth. Pour all of the puree in to a bowl, except for approximately 1/2 a cup. Add peppers to blender with reserved 1/2 cup of salsa, and puree until smooth. Add the pepper mixture and kosher salt to the salsa, a little at a time, to taste & desired spiciness level. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours to allow flavors to meld.

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