Do you have a best friend you call your wife?
Well, you are missing out, chums.
My wife, Miss M, bought me some fun seeds a while back – a packet of tomatillos and a packet of cucamelons. Tragically, the cucamelons didn’t make it (I blame the Scottish weather) but apparently the tomatillos were an unstoppable force! I say ‘apparently’ because I am appalling at gardening – I have the black thumb of doom when it comes to plants. It’s just not my thing. Father Rock Salt, on the other hand, is a gardener extraordinaire, so I asked him to help me with growing these.
Look at them go! They grow in wee paper lanterns that can start to split open as the fruit gets ripe. Isn’t nature cool?
Once you peel the husk away, the fruit needs to be washed since it has a coating of sticky sap, particularly around where the stem connects to the plant.
They look most like under-ripe tomatoes, but in fact they’re more closely related to gooseberries (or so Wikipedia says). They have a sharp, tart taste, and are chock full of tiny little seeds.
Tomatillos aren’t common here, so I had no experience of preparing them. That’s what the internet’s for, right? The most common thing to do with them is to make salsa verde, and that’s more or less what I did. I didn’t follow a particular recipe (unsurprisingly), but here’s a rough idea of what it looked like:
- clove of garlic
- half a red onion
- half a red pepper
- half a yellow pepper
- one bowlful of tomatillos (a bowl the size of the one in the photo above)
- juice of half a lime
- pinch of cumin
- pinch of chili flakes
- salt and pepper
I cooked everything up in a pot until the tomatillos were soft and a little yellow, then I pureed it. Really, that’s all there was to it.
Note: When I say something like that, you can always tell that I haven’t taken any photos, and that I’m not totally convinced I can remember how I made whatever thing I’m talking about.
I also roasted up some chicken strips, which were seasoned with lime zest and juice, garlic, cumin and cinnamon (as well as the standard salt and pepper) and thrown in the oven. Another time I might cook the chicken in the salsa, but I was winging it. The flavours in the chicken were great, especially the hint of warm cinnamon. I also rattled up some guacamole, and heated flour tortillas. Dinner was served.
The salsa was beautifully thick once I’d whizzed it up, ideal for wrapping up in a tortilla. I threw the other half of the peppers and onion into the dish, raw, for a nice contrasting texture. I also finished with some spring onion, for added bite. We could have used some extra components – a bit of salad, refried beans, corn on the cob, maybe a pot of rice – but nobody went hungry. We also didn’t have any leftover sauce in the dish, it was all scraped up and spooned onto our fajitas. I took that as a sign of approval.
The tomatillos were a great gift, and I hope Father Rock Salt feels suitably compensated for growing them for me, since we shared the end result for Sunday dinner. Thanks all round to my collaborators in seed-buying and plant-growing – I’ll stick to the cooking.