When To Pick Tomatillos: 4 Signs They Are Ready to Harvest

chenell
By: Chenell - Lead Writer and Gardening Advocate
Published:

The first year I grew tomatillos, I wasn’t expecting to love them so much. I mean, who doesn’t love a fresh salsa verde, but when you grow your own tomatillos, it takes that “fresh” piece to a whole new level.

But when they are on the tomatillo plants, it can be hard to tell when they are ready to be turned into delicious salsa, or if they need a little more time to grow. So when is the right time to pick tomatillos?

When to Pick Tomatillos

Tomatillos are ready to be picked when the fruit is still green but is starting to emerge from the husk. You can wait until they are fully coming out of the husk, or pick at this point.

I like to wait for the moment when the husk splits open and starts to reveal the tomatillo fruit to the world.

If you’re used to growing tomatoes, this can be tricky to get used to as tomatillos are ripe when they are still green (or purple if you’re growing a different variety) and don’t get as large as some tomatoes do.

Signs You Have Ripe Tomatillos

There are a few ways to tell when a tomatillo is ripe and ready to be picked!

1. The Fruit is Coming Out of the Husk

As I mentioned above, this is one of the more tell-tale ways to know if you have ripe fruits or not. While it’s not a perfect measure, if the tomatillo isn’t coming out of the husk, you probably have a few more days before harvest.

2. The Husk Turns Brown

While a tomatillo fruit is growing, the husk is a really light green color. Once that color starts to fade and the husk is turning brown, you’re getting closer and closer to having a ripe tomatillo.

3. The Fruit Comes Off the Plant With A Slight Tug

When you are determining if your tomatillo harvest is ready, find some fruits that are coming out of the husk and give them a gentle tug. If they easily come off the plant, they are definitely ready to be harvested.

If they stay on the plant and need more than just that tug, you can leave them on the plant for another day or two and hope they ripen even more.

ripe vs unripe tomatillos

4. The Fruit is the Right Color

Not all tomatillos are green when they are ripe! If you’re growing a different variety of tomatillo, like a purple or yellow one, they might be different colors when they are ready to be harvested.

  • Purple tomatillos are going to have a purple tint to them when ripe
  • Green tomatillos will stay green until they are ripe
  • Yellow tomatillos will turn yellow as they ripen

Keep in mind that eventually green tomatillos will turn yellow, and once they do this they start to lose some of that tangy flavor you might be expecting. You can still use them (as long as they aren’t mushy and going bad), and I have used them before as “filler” in my salsa verde if I didn’t have enough perfectly ripe fruits.

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.

How Long Do Tomatillos Grow Before They Are Ready to 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 starting to 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.

What Does an Underripe Tomatillo Look Like?

tomatillo growing stages

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 recommended to pick the tomatillos when they are a little less ripe. This gives them a more sour flavor which is great for salsa verde!

ripe tomatillos

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 sweeter 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 or another gardening tool 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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tomatillos husks

Tomatillo Snapshot

Scientific Name: Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa

Other names (and tomatillos have a lot of them!)

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

Minimum Number of Plants to Grow: 2

Plant Family: Nightshade Family

Time to Harvest: 75-100 days

Best Soil Type: Will grow almost anywhere, but prefer well-drained 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 year’s 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 of weeks before the last frost.

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.

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 off a tomatillo 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.

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

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.

purple tomatillos
Green and purple tomatillos

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

Dehydrated Tomatillos

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

chenell

AUTHOR

Hi - I'm Chenell! I'm on a mission to learn how to grow my own food, and help other people do the same.

I lived in the city for almost a decade, but after moving to the suburbs, I started making my Iowa blood proud and growing all kinds of food 🌽 I started this website to help keep track of the journey while teaching others the mistakes and things I'm learning along the way. You can follow along with the journey and learn more here.

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