As previously confessed, when we first grew tomatillos I wasn’t only unfamiliar with how to cook with them, but more importantly how the fruit develops and matures in the garden. The first year we grew them by about the beginning of July I was certain our crop was a bust.
The sprawling bushy plants grew to about three foot tall and were quite healthy. The vines produced little yellow flowers that eventually turned into small bright green papery looking Chinese lanterns. When I examined the fruit, it felt like only a small pea was inside the husk. So I would either forget about them or months later gather up the few that would finally burst out of their now light brown husks.
Since then I have learned quite a bit about this member of the nightshade family. Tomatillos are more closely related to cape gooseberries than they are to eggplants and tomatoes. I learned that as the fruit matures it fills out the husk. Tomatillos are about the size of a large cherry tomato, low in calories, a good source of iron and magnesium and vitamins C and K. Though they look like green tomatoes, they are much firmer in texture when ripe. The thin papery coating will turn light brown as the fruit matures. They can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks or frozen whole. Leave the husks on the fruit until ready to use. To prepare tomatillos, remove the husk and stem and rinse off the remaining sticky residue that coats the fruit.
I am enjoying tomatillos more each season. We grow both green and purple tomatillos. The purple variety is supposed to be sweeter, I can’t say that for certain, but they certainly make an attractive addition to the garden. My tomatillo recipe repertoire to this point was limited to accompaniments. Roasting tomatillos for salsa verde was initially a good way to use them but now I wanted to branch out This year I did something I never did before, I ate one raw. I was surprised and delighted with the bright, not too tart citrusy flavor. Prior to this I thought that biting down on a tomatillo would be the same as eating a green tomato, not necessarily a pleasant experience.
This time I used them in an easy to put together soup. Bright lemony flavored tomatillos are combined with tomatoes, smoky cumin and green chilies. Homemade chicken stock is always a good base for a soup but low sodium chicken broth is fine also. I prefer using chicken thighs in soup recipes because they will hold up better if the soup is reheated.
Chicken and Tomatillo Soup
- Olive oil
- 1lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1″ pieces
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 t chile powder
- 1T cumin
- 1 t dried oregano (for this recipe I prefer Penzey’s Mexican oregano)
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 2T diced canned roasted mild green chiles
- 8 cups chicken stock or substitute low sodium chicken broth
- 2c diced tomatoes, I use my roasted tomatoes, substitute your brand of choice
- 3c finely chopped tomatillos
- 1 can Great Northern beans
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat 1T olive oil over medium-high heat in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven. Add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides, about 5-6 minutes. Remove to a plate and keep warm.
- Add onion and cook, stirring, until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chili powder cumin, oregano, and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute longer.
- Stir in the chicken and chiles and then add the broth, chopped tomatoes and tomatillos and a can of beans. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until the flavors blend, about 30-40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.