History Of Purple Tomatillo Plants

By Liz Baessler | December 15, 2016
Image by jason wilson
by Liz Baessler
December 15, 2016

A lot of different opinions surround tomatillos. Those who’ve never tried them think they’re just weirdo tomatoes. Those who have tried them know they’re so much more. Those who cook Mexican and Guatemalan cuisine find them indispensable. And the few people who grow purple tomatillos have struck gold. Let’s learn more about these interesting heirloom tomatillo plants.

History of Purple Tomatillo Plants

Tomatillos are an ancient food native to Central America. Their first recorded cultivation by the Aztecs was in 800 B.C. In the 1980s, tomatillos became a headliner in Mexican agriculture, and Mexico found itself exporting 80% of its tomatillo crop to the United States, which began importing them in earnest.

Purple tomatillo history is equally ancient and tied strongly to Mexico. It is quite rare in the U.S., still, but in Mexico it grows in the wild as a weed, sneaking into and taking over corn fields.

Growing a Tomatillo Purple Heirloom Plant

The tomatillo is an essential part of Mexican and Guatemalan cooking. If you have a tomatillo plant, chances are good that you’re planning on making salsa. Purple tomatillo plants are a little different from their green siblings, though. The fruits are much sweeter, and delicious eaten straight off the vine. They do make for a fantastic salsa, too, giving it a sweet balance and a splash of unconventional purple color!

Growing purple tomatillo is essentially the same as growing regular tomatillos. Begin the plants indoors well before the last frost, then set them out when the weather warms. Allow your fruits to ripen on the vine – they won’t really begin to turn purple until the husk splits open and they’re exposed to the sun.

If you want, you can pick them when still greenish and remove the husk – the purple color will spread (and the fruit will sweeten) on your kitchen counter.

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