This past summer we decided to plant tomatillos in our garden. I fell in love with the little green guys in Mexico, where I watched the wonderful women at the community center slam together some salsa verde every day for the kids who came after school. I had never tried it before (and honestly at the time it took some getting used to), but now I wouldn’t want to go without it.
So this summer we wanted to plant some tomatillos, and after a frantic drive around town trying to find any garden store that sold tomatillo plants (Lowes was the winner, surprisingly), we shoved them in the ground and hoped for the best. (we’ll try them from seeds in the future; this year we got a late start on the growing season). What I had read about tomatillo plants was that 1) they can handle harsh conditions and 2) they go crazy, and both of these turned out to be true. While other plants struggled and withered and honestly didn’t pull their weight, the tomatillos plowed on and grew like they didn’t understand the rules. As a result, we ended up with two huge bushes overshadowing our garden, and hundreds of little green globes filling up our kitchen.
The answer to this bounty, of course, was to make more salsa verde than we had ever seen in one place in our life. Tomatillos are fairly tart and intense when raw, but when roasted they become soft and sweet and complex. So far I’ve only used them successfully in salsa verde, but I’ve used salsa verde successfully in everything. I love the stuff. It’s a great condiment for many mexican dishes, but it works equally well with eggs or as a base for a chili or as the star in one of my favorite dishes, chilaquiles.
It’s also pretty simple to make, so now it’s your turn. If you don’t have tomatillo plants taking over your garden, look for them in Mexican stores or even sometimes in large chain groceries. Smaller and greener are generally better; don’t let your instincts with tomatoes affect your judgment here. The fruit should fill the husk (that means it’s ripe) and be firm and intact.
I learned the basic concept for this recipe from my casual meals in Mexico, but the official measurements come from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen (amazon link).
1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 medium white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, toasted
1-3 serrano chiles (or small jalapeños) depending on heat desired
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro
1 tsp salt
pinch sugar, if necessary
Spread the tomatillos out on a sheet pan and place right under the broiler on high for five minutes, until roasted and blackened in spots. Turn the tomatillos, and go another five minutes. Set aside.
Place the garlic cloves and chiles directly on a burner at medium heat, turning occasionally until blacked in spots and soft. Remove skin from garlic and stem from chiles (as well as seeds and ribs if you want a milder heat).
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Or, if you like a chunkier salsa, blend less and add the onions and cilantro separately before blending briefly again. If the salsa seems too tart (this depends on your tomatillos), feel free to add a pinch of sugar to the mix.
That’s it! Simple, but delicious, and extremely useful. What do you eat with your salsa verde?