The tomatillo is sometimes referred to as the husk tomato. The fruit forms within the calyx or husk that gives the vegetable its appearance. The fruit of the tomatillo remains green even when ripe and is often used in green salsas as well as other dishes. Both the husk and fruit are monitored to determine the readiness of the fruit for harvest.
During the growing process the fruit forms and expands within the husk until it is full or begins to split. If the husk splits the tomatillo is visible for inspection. If the harvest occurs before the husk splits the harvest decision is based on the extent the husk is filled. After harvest the freshness of the tomatillo is gauged by the green of the fruit and the fresh appearance of the husk.
If visible, the fruit should be green rather without a yellowish cast. The yellow cast indicates an over-ripe tomatillo that will have a rather sweet taste compared to the acidic taste preferred for the fruit. The ideal fruit is still green but large enough to fill, or nearly fill, a green husk.
Tomatillos are ready to harvest between two and four months after planting, depending on varieties. Harvest is commonly done by hand even in large scale commercial operations. Multiple harvest operations are performed every couple of weeks during the growing and maturing process.
Harvest for Fresh Use
The husk is often the only visible indicator of the quality of the tomatillos. Proper care after harvest keeps the husk fresh and prevents a dry appearance. After harvest the tomatillos are kept in cold storage in the low 40 degree Fahrenheit area. Chilling injury occurs after storage for more than two weeks. Fresh tomatillos have a shelf life of up to three weeks with proper care.
- Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images