Intro: Tomatillos are great container plants for kitchen gardens that many people think are just green tomatoes. Tomatillos are a smaller (think the size of a golf ball) green fruit that grows inside of a papery husk. These little green vegetables (technically tomatillos are fruit) are popular in Mexican cuisine (they are native to Mexico) and are the key ingredient in salsa verde. You may also find some purple or red tomatillo varieties. Tomatillo plants will need stakes, a trellis or some other type of support. The flowers will attract bees, which will increase fruit production. They do well in small 5-gallon plant containers with well-draining potting soil. Each tomatillo plant will produce many tomatillos, so be prepared!
Scientific Name: Physalis philadelphica
Plant Type: Annual vegetable (although the tomatillo is technically a fruit)
Light: Full sun
Zone: Tomatillo plants do best in Zones 8 to 11 in hot weather.
Fertilizer: Fertilize your tomatillo plants weekly with a low-nitrogen water-soluble fertilizer.
Pests and Diseases: Tomatillo plants rarely have problems with garden pests or diseases, but watch out for aphids and different types of beetles that will eat your tomatillo plant’s leaves. Blight, slugs and snails may also present a problem.
Propagation: Propagate tomatillo plants by seed. Start seeds indoors two months before the last expected frost (seeds will germinate in four to seven days). Seed trays aren’t large enough to grow tomatillo seedlings for two months, so use a larger plant container when starting seeds. When bringing the young tomatillo plants outside, harden them off by getting them used to the cooler outdoor balcony garden weather. For a few days, keep the tomatillo plants out in the sun only during daytime and bring them back indoors at night. You will need multiple tomatillo plants or you will not have any fruit to harvest. Plant at least two or three plants so they can cross-pollinate. Save the tomatillo seeds for the next planting season. These vegetable plants may also self-sow in the kitchen garden, meaning that if you let any fruit fall to the ground and rot there, a new plant may sprout next year from the same plant container!
Misc. Info: Tomatillos are ready to harvest from the kitchen garden after 80 to 100 days. Once the husk dries out and begins to split, the tomatillos are ready. Store the tomatillos inside their papery husks, but discard the husk before eating. Most people cook tomatillos.