When To Pick Tomatillos & How to Harvest Them Properly

Tomatillos are a type of green tomato that is often used in Mexican cuisine. They grow on a vine and have a paper-like husk around them when they are fully grown.

Tomatillos can be harvested when the fruit is still green or when it has ripened to yellow, orange, or red. Harvesting tomatillos at the right time will allow you to get more use out of them as well as create better flavor for cooking dishes.

Tomatillo Snapshot

Scientific Name: Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa

Other names:

  • Husk tomato
  • Mexican groundcherry
  • Large-flowered tomatillo
  • Mexican husk tomato
  • Mexican green tomato
  • Miltomate

Minimum Number of Plants to Grow: 2

Time to Harvest: 75-100 days

Best Soil Type: Will grow most anywhere, but prefer well-drained, sandy soil

Temperature Requirements: Tomatillos grow best between 77 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit

Height: 6.5 feet+

How to Grow Tomatillos

Growing tomatillos is super simple. They seem to be even easier to grow than tomatoes in my experience.

I plan to start my next years tomatillos indoors around 4-6 weeks before the last frost. While tomatoes I will continue to start 6-8 weeks out, tomatillos seem to grow like WEEDS once they get started, and they were way too big for my grow room shelves while I still had a couple weeks before the last frost.

Tomatillos produce a large yield with one tomatillo plant being able to produce around 2 pounds of tomatillo fruits in a season.

You need to plant at least two tomatillo plants together to make sure that the flowers are pollinated. A solo tomatillo plant will rarely bear fruit.

If you love tomatillos and salsa verde, I’d recommend planting 3-4 plants so you have enough to make your favorite dishes. It’s also a good idea to plan your garden with great tomatillo companion plants in mind to help keep pests away.

Tomatillos do well in all kinds of soil, and seem to enjoy the clay soil they’re in here in my garden. They don’t need watering all the time, just every few days.

How Long Do Tomatillos Take Until Harvest

Tomatillos are generally ready to pick about 75-100 days after planting, which is usually around the middle of July, depending on your hardiness zone and growing season. You’ll start to see blooms form around day 40-50 and once those are pollinated they’ll begin to produce fruit.

Be sure to check the plants regularly, as once you notice a fruit coming in, it might just be a few more days until they are ready.

How to Tell if Tomatillos Are Ripe?

You’ll know when your tomatillos are ready to pick when they are starting to come out of the husk. The color generally will not change much to indicate ripeness, unless you’re growing purple tomatillos.

tomatillos ripe

Once they start breaking out of the husk, tomatillos are ready to be picked.

Tomatillos will feel sticky on the skin of the fruit, this is a natural deterrent for pests and insects.

Tomatillos Are Ready to Pick When:

  • The fruit is starting to emerge from the husk. You can wait until they are fully coming out of the husk, or pick at this point.
  • The color of the fruit and the husk generally don’t have any bearing on whether it’s ready to pick or not

What Does an Underripe Tomatillo Look Like?

An underripe tomatillo will still be small and fully in the husk. When they are ripe, tomatillos push through the papery husk they are encased in.

When you go to feel the husk and it feels like a papery balloon where the fruit is not touching the edges, the fruit is not ready to be harvested.

Overripe Tomatillos

It’s pretty hard to let a tomatillo go bad or “overripe”. They are generally either good to eat, or you’ve waited way too long and they’re smushy and have some rot spots on them. There is not much of a middle ground when it comes to tomatillos.

You’ll know when one has gone bad when the fruit is starting to rot.

Harvesting Tomatillos for Salsa Verde

If you’re planning on making salsa verde, it is generally recommend to pick the tomatillos when they are a little less ripe. This gives them a more sour flavor which is great for salsa verde!

Before they emerge from the papery husk but are large enough to mostly fill out the husk is a great time to pick them.

The longer tomatillos have to ripen, the more sweet they will begin to taste. So this will also depend on your personal preference of how you want your salsa verde to taste.

Harvesting With Tools vs Hand Picking

Tomatillos will be easy to pull off the plant when they are ripe. Put your hand around the fruit and gently pull. The fruit will come off the stem pretty easily.

You can also use gardening shears if you’d like instead. Snip the husk off of the branch of the plant and you’re on your way.

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Can You Eat the Tomatillo Husk?

The husk of the tomatillo is NOT edible, and also would likely taste pretty strange. Make sure to remove the husk before eating.

I simply throw the husks in the compost bin and let them do their magic! 🙂

Tomatillos Not Filling Husk / Why Are They So Small?

Before tomatillos are ripe, they will be very small inside of a larger husk. The husk will fill out to full size before the fruit itself will grow that large.

The tomatillo husk forms first, and usually looks pretty empty for a while.

I made the mistake of pulling one off that I thought was empty, only to realize the fruit was just much smaller than the husk and would have grown larger if I had left it on the plant. Whoops!

If you’re not used to growing tomatillos, this can be very strange the first time you see it. You’re thinking your plant isn’t getting enough nutrients, or something has gone terribly wrong.

This is not a bad thing – the husk grows in first, and your fruit will get larger and fill out the husk, you just need to give it more time.

Are Tomatillos Toxic?

One of the most common misconceptions about tomatillos is that they are toxic. Tomatillos are not toxic and are completely safe to eat. You can eat them raw or cooked.

While you don’t want to eat the other parts of the plant or the husks, the fruit is totally safe to eat.

Green vs Purple Tomatillos – How Are They Different?

There are a few types of tomatillos. Green tomatillos and purple tomatillos are different types, but aside from the color they are pretty similar.

Generally, green tomatillos are a little more sour than purple ones.

Both take around the same time to harvest, and since you need 2 plants at least, you might as well plant one purple and one green one to add some variety in your kitchen.

How to Store Tomatillos / How to Preserve Tomatillos

If left in the husk, tomatillos will store well for about 10 days. Of course, everything seems to taste better when its fresh from the garden that day, but that’s not always an option.

You can make salsa verde and that will last for about a week as well in the refrigerator.

Canned Tomatillos

You can also can tomatillos to keep the freshness longer. Wash your tomatillos well, add lemon juice to a mason jar and boil them like you

Deyhydrated Tomatillos

Yes, you can dehydrate tomatillos! And you can even make salsa verde from the dehydrated ingredients. It may not taste quite as fresh but it’s still delicious just the same!

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