What rhymes with amarillo (Spanish word for yellow, pronounced ahh-mar-eee-yo), starts with a T, and is a today’s article for a healthy food for walking through the ABCs’s this week?: Tomatillo! Do you think these are little green, unripe tomatoes? If you do, then you are like many out there. So, let’s learn more about what these green gems are all about.
Is a tomatillo just an unripe, green little tomato?
Nope. The botanical name for the tomatillo plant is Physalis philadelphica while the botanical name for the tomato plant is Solanum lycopersicum. While an unripe green tomato may look similar to a tomatillo, they come from two different plants and are two different fruits. They are a little bit related as they are part of the same family of plants (called Solanaceae which means nightshade) along with potatoes, eggplant, and peppers.
A big difference between the tomato and the tomatillo is the tomatillo grows inside a paper husk. This is removed before eating and is why many also call tomatillos the “Mexican husk tomato”. The name also gives a clue: they are widely grown in Mexico and are very popular in Mexican cooking. The most popular dish associated with the tomatillo is salsa verde (which means green salsa!).
Are they good for you?
I am always in for getting more green in (GO GREEN is more than being environmentally friendly!). And, new ways to try fruits and veggies are always a plus…especially for kids. These little green guys are full of good nutrition! I cup chopped has 0 grams of fat. There are 8 grams of carbs that consist of about 3 grams of fiber (which is GREAT!) and 5 grams of naturally occurring sugars. One cup of these little guys also contain 1 gram of protein.
Tomatillos also have bioactive compounds that are shown to be anti-carcinogenic (1, 2).
Can you eat them raw?
Yep! If you get them from the farmer’s market or grocery store and they still have the papery husks on them, remove the husk and wash them off (you’ll notice they will be a little sticky, but that just washes right off!). You can eat them like an apple, but not everyone likes their strong flavor and it isn’t sweet.
Other ways to try them:
- slice them up and use them in a salad, or top with a slice of manchego cheese
- diced them up in cooking meals like stir fry, soups, stews, casseroles to add more healthy green
- juice it up in your favorite green smoothie mix or juice
Need a recipe?
It’s fun to try new things, but here is an oldie but goody way to use tomatillos! It’s our unique version of “Salsa Verde”
8 tomatillos (husk and wash)
1 (or 2 if you like spicy) jalapenos (slice open and take seeds out)
1/2 c fresh cilantro, diced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 t cinnamon
1 t cumin
1/4 t Himalayan pink salt
Place all ingredients in high speed blender and blend until smooth. Serve with tortilla chips, or on top of fish, chicken, or on your morning eggs! Enjoy!
See you next week for the letter U! Do U have any ideas for what starts with u???
 FEBS J. 2006 Dec;273(24):5714-23. Ixocarpalactone A isolated from the Mexican tomatillo shows potent antiproliferative and apoptotic activity in colon cancer cells. Choi JK, Murillo G, Su BN, Pezzuto JM, Kinghorn AD, Mehta RG.
 Steroids. 2011 Jun;76(7):724-8. Philadelphicalactones C and D and other cytotoxic compounds from Physalis philadelphica. Maldonado E, Pérez-Castorena AL, Garcés C, Martínez M.