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Two Traditional Mexican Tomatillo Recipes

Patty collects recipes and gadgets from the past and is interested in early American history, the Civil War, and the 19th century.

My First Encounter With Mexican Cuisine

My first encounter with "Mexican" food was at a Taco Bell in college.

The name of the restaurant was actually something else, but Taco Bell sprung up and then bought them out. Still, a taco here was only ground meat in a hard folded cornmeal shell, festooned with shredded lettuce and American cheese shreds, which fell out on the first bite.

The taco was neither convenient nor tasty, and as with most fast food dishes it took too many to feel as if you'd had a meal. Greasy, too.

Over time I learned that real Mexican food is nothing like what Taco Bell serves. This article is devoted to the tomatillo, as well as two delicious recipes that feature this ingredient.

Tomatillos

Tomatillos

The Tomatillo in the Americas

Perdue University Extension Service tells us that the tomatillo is also known by a number of nicknames: husk tomato, jamberry, and ground cherry.

In Spanish it is called the tomate de cascara, tomate de fresadilla, tomate milpero, tomate verde, tomatillo (in Mexico), and miltomate (in Mexico and Guatemala). It has been found in archaeological digs dating as far back as 950 BC.

While the tomatillo is not a tomato as we know it, it is one of many round fruits and vegetables that a group of Mexican/South American Native Americans (likely Aztecs) called "tomatl."

The tomatillo grows in Southern California (the Baja Peninsula), southwards, all the way down to Guatemala. We often find them in grocery stores in North America now.

Taco trucks are sure to serve foods containing the tomatillo. Both the trucks and the food item are gaining popularity.

Taco trucks are sure to serve foods containing the tomatillo. Both the trucks and the food item are gaining popularity.

Chile Verde

Yield: 4 servings

Chile verde means green chili. It contains pork shoulder in a sauce of tomatillos, which appear to be tiny green tomatoes but are not. Some versions of this dish omit the potatoes or substitute green tomatoes or use a combination of red and green tomatoes/tomatillos, whatever you have on hand.

Ingredients

  • 10 tomatillos
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican chicken bouillon powder
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half
  • 4 jalapeño chilies, seeded (Save some of the seeds if you wish the dish to be hotter. Or use the New Mexico mild hatch chilis.)
  • 3 potatoes
  • 1/2 cup stewed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Flour tortillas

Instructions

  1. Remove wrappers from tomatillos and wash the vegetable.
  2. In a blender, mix 1/4 cup stewed tomaotes, tomatillos, boullion, garlic, jalapeños, and onion. Add some pepper seeds if you want more heat.
  3. Trim excess fat and cut pork into 1-inch cubes.
  4. Wash potatoes and cut them into bite-size chunks.
  5. Using a higher-sided frying pan or iron skillet or Dutch oven, place the pan on a burner and turn the heat to moderately high. Heat the pan.
  6. Add the oil to frying pan and tllt pan to cover the bottom.
  7. Fry pork cubes just until the outside looks white, stirring constantly so that the meat does not burn.
  8. Add remaining stewed tomatoes and stir, then add the blender sauce.
  9. Stir well and cook for 40 minutes until the meat is somewhat tender.
  10. Add potatoes and continue to cook until meat and potatoes are tender.
  11. Heat tortillas and serve with garnishes of your choice.
Hatch chilis, a specialty of Hatch, New Mexico.

Hatch chilis, a specialty of Hatch, New Mexico.

Tomatillo Relish

Yield: This recipe make a large amount of flavorful relish.

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chopped tomatillos
  • 3 cups chopped jicama
  • 3 cups chopped Spanish onion
  • 6 cups chopped plum tomatoes
  • 2 cups chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cups chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cups chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1 cup coarse salt
  • 1/2 gallon of spring water
  • 6 tablespoons pickling spices (whole, not ground up)
  • 1 tablespoon crushed or ground red pepper
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 6 cups cider vinegar

Instructions

  1. Have 6 glass pint canning jars already clean and dry, with 2-piece (rim and flat covers) lids handy.
  2. Remove tomatillo husks, peel jicama and onion, and wash all vegetables, including peppers. Then chop in a blender to medium-fine, not too small.
  3. Place chopped vegetables into a large saucepan.
  4. Dissolve salt in the water in a bowl or the jug the weater came in and pour the solution over the vegetables in the pan.
  5. Heat the pan until the mixture comes to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove pan form heat and drain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Lay all the pickling spices and red pepper on a double layer of clean sqaure cheesecoth 6 inches on a side. Tie corners with string to make a bag.
  8. In a clean pot, stir together sugar, vinegar, and the spice bag. Turn heat on and bring to the boil.
  9. Add in the drained vegetables and cook until the relish boils again. Immediately turn the heat down to simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
  10. Take out the spice bag and discard.
  11. Fill the pint jars with relish, leaving ½-inch space below the lip of each jar.
  12. Take out all the air bubbles in the jar by inserting a soda straw into the bubble to relase the air or by tapping the jars on the counter.
  13. Wipe the lips of all the jars with a damp towel and place each two-piece metal canning lid on top.
  14. Process in a boiling hot water bath in a soup kettle for 15-20 minutes. Remove the hot jars with tongs and sit on a towel on the counter and you will hear the lids pop as they seal and the tops of the lids dent down to indicate the seals. If you have too much relish, use a 7th jar or use it first, and when a jar does not seal, simply use it before the others and keep it refrigeratedt’s safe, because it’s pickled!
Tomatillos are sure to be in this delicious lunch!

Tomatillos are sure to be in this delicious lunch!

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS

Experiences, Recipe Variations, and Fun

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 13, 2012:

Gee, I don't know, MickeySr. I've only used them together with other vegetables and in those dishes, they seem to remind me more of a mild pepper. One person in comments says to boil them 10 minutes before using, but I've never noticed any sticky residue of the kind they mention.

MickeySr from Hershey, Pa. on August 13, 2012:

I don't see it here, among the 'comments', but did I already ask you this;

I love Mexican food (I grew-up in California), I cook Mexican food, and I've tried to use tomatillos twice - but think I don't know what I'm doing with them. I don't know if it's a matter of proper ripeness or if I got some goofy tomatillos, but both times mine tasted like raw potato, and I've never heard any chef mention them having a potato-like taste - so, what's up with that?

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 13, 2012:

I hope you like them!

carol stanley from Arizona on August 13, 2012:

I have often thought about buying tomatillos. Now I know what to do with them. Thanks for sharing.

tomatillolover on November 11, 2011:

I love your recipes!

Michael on April 15, 2011:

Thank you for posting this. My friend and I were just discussing Mexican cuisine and I was trying to describe tomatillos to him and he couldn't wrap his head around the concept until I showed him this, so thank you again :)

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 28, 2010:

Jack, I never heard of purple tomatillos until you mentioned them. I'll be looking for some, especially if they reseed. Thanks for the alert!

Jack Burton from The Midwest on May 28, 2010:

We went from four tomatillo plants last year to 24 this year. Half are the traditional large tomatillos but the other half are something I haven't tried before... little bitty ones called "purple" tomatillos. My Mexican friends say they are much better tasting. One good thing about growing them... they reseed themselves every year so you only have to buy them once.

Rebekah on September 12, 2009:

I love tomatillos, but planted a few too many in the garden this year. I actually like to make a fresh salsa with raw tomatillos, onions, jalepenos (or other hot peppers), cilantro, etc. I just through it all into my small food processor, and add some salt to taste. I know most people roast their tomatillos, but we prefer the fresh taste and texture. I'm definitely going to have to try this relish recipe, it sounds delicious and we have more tomatillos than we (and our neighbors ;) know what to do with!

Laura on September 12, 2009:

The relish recipe sounds delicious! I haven't tried cooking with jicama and look forward to trying it. We've only had it prepared fresh! Now to use the relish-is it like a pickle relish condiment for used as an ingredient or is there a traditional recipe using as such over meat? Thanks for the great recipe! Laura

Pachuca213 on June 03, 2009:

I make this dish at least twice a month...also making Green Salsa once a week...Tomatillos are good but you have to know how to prepare them just right. A tip of good advice...you are suppose to wash them really really good and then boil them at least 10 minutes to get soft and also to get the remaining sticky residue boiled off...then put them in a blender.=)

Herald Daily from A Beach Online on April 02, 2009:

When I think of Taco Bell, I think instant heartburn. The tortillas that I had in Mexico were nothing like what is sold in this part of the world, that's for sure.

Your recipes sound really tasty. I'm not much of a cook but I think it will be fun trying these.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 31, 2009:

Peggy - I become very excited over original recipes and cultures. It;s all fascinating,

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 31, 2009:

This really sounds good. Will have to give it a try sometime. Thanks for sharing this with all of us on hubpages.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 31, 2009:

VioletSun - well, the relish is less fattening than the chili, I think. :)

Heartaday - It is similar to the green tomato relish, but to me it is more tangy. Hope you like it. You'll have to tell us your opinions later about it. Thanks for visiting!

Heartaday on March 31, 2009:

We actually have tomatillos in our grocery store now but I haven't known what to do with them. I wonder if the relish is like the green tomato relish my mom makes.

VioletSun from Oregon/ Name: Marie on March 30, 2009:

Oh, dear, every time, I am determined to lose some weight, the yummy recipes shows up in my mailbox. Just read Gamegirl's peanut and cornflakes clusters. LOL! Have saved this recipe to try it!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 30, 2009:

Thanks for all the comments -- the relish is realy superb! Of course, I like all kinds of relishes.

MandM on March 30, 2009:

I had never heard about tomatillo yet. I have to search in supermarket to try it.

MellasViews from Earth on March 30, 2009:

Yum... this sounds awesome. TY for sharing it! I want to attempt to do the relish! : )

Merle Ann Johnson from NW in the land of the Free on March 30, 2009:

OH Man I must try the relish recipe...sounds wonderful...I love using Tomatillo's....Thanks my dear...G-Ma :O) Hugs & Peace

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 30, 2009:

I like the heat high enough that it causes my mouth to itch. :)

I didn't think I'd like the tomatillo until I finally tried one and they are very good. The relish is one of my favorites and I hope you like both dishes.

SirDent on March 30, 2009:

I love Mexican food. The heat that comes with my favortie dishes are the best part of some of them. We make a lot of mexican style sdishes here at home also. I will have to try these you have wriutten about here.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 30, 2009:

Thanks for visitng Gary! We've only had tomatillos here a few years and I'm glad to use them. I look forward to the recipes and methods you will share with us from yoru kitchen.

pvrust from Carlsbad, Ca on March 30, 2009:

Great Tasty looking Recepie Patty,

I was a chef for years in SF and will be looking forward to sharing cooking ideas with you. Tomatillos are an often overlooked ingredient and they add a great acidic and natural tart taste to any dish. I love your 2 recipes. Great job Patty!

Gary Rust

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