Produce Spotlight – Tomatillos

Tomatillos (Physalis philadelphica), or husk tomatoes, are relatives of the tomato that grow in papery husks. According to GourmetSleuth,

The Aztecs domesticated the tomatillo and the fruit dates back to at least 800 B.C.  The Aztec word tomatl means something “round and plump”.  Europeans that came to the New World and documented the local foods often confused the food names.

As a result, while these are relatives of tomatoes, they are absolutely nothing like any other tomato I have every had. I tried these for the first time (as raw produce, anyway) last week, because I was looking for a substitute for tomatoes (trying to spice things up). They can range in color from green to yellow, but are typically used when green. These are a fruit most widely avaliable in the summer.

Tomatillos via Wikimedia

(Image from Wikimedia)

I made the mistake of trying to bite into these without cutting them ahead of time. It’s possible, but the skin is thick and trying to bite a whole one may result in tomato innards spurting everywhere. When I bit into it, I was first met with a sour, tangy sensation and a mildly bitter flavor. These are nothing like tomatoes – I was expecting something completely different. The flavor could be described as unripe green apple…with a plum-like texture. I found that they went well with a simple oil and balsamic dressing, the tartness of the tomatillo seemed to bring out the sugars in the balsamic.

As far as nutritional value goes: these aren’t particularly “packed” with vitamins and minerals, but they aren’t by any means “empty calories”. They’re mainly an interesting, flavorful way to get a few extra nutrients.

1/2 cup of these, raw (according to has:

Only 20 kcals

1g fat (mix of poly/monounsaturated)

1g fiber (5% DV)

13% DV Vitamin A

8% DV Vitamin K

177mg Potassium ( not as much as a banana …)

and a smattering of other micronutrients in small concentrations.

It also contains a good amount of water, and will help make you feel more full! (Don’t forget it makes a great green salsa!)



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