Tomatillos / Ground cherries

seattle_li(z8 Seattle)July 3, 2004

Hi there -

I'm growing several kinds of tomatillos in my garden this year and I need some help! I guess the basic question is...are they supposed to be growing vertically or horizontally (in other words, should I cage or stake them like tomatoes or are they supposed to be down there?) Is there any difference in how they like to grow between different varieties? ("pineapple" tomatillos for example, vs. purple or mexican)(got one of each)

Second question - I looked through a couple threads but I really can't tell - is a "pineapple tomatillo" the same thing as a "ground cherry"

Anyone with experience growing these or anyone with a recipe they'd like to share  IÂd love to hear from you. Thanks!

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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Cage and/or stake them. They are not as robust as tomatoes. Recipes may possibly be found on the HARVEST forum if you post a question.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2004 at 1:06PM
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marklee(z8 WA)

I am experimenting with 3 kinds of tomatillo in my Seattle garden. By kinds I mean different species. One species is like a vegetable, and it goes well in salsa. Another one I think will be more sweet, more of a fruit. The third species is native to the Eastern US, and I hope it turns into a perennial vegetable in my garden. I'll report more on these later in the season.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2004 at 12:03PM
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britmum(z5 Illinois)

We are growing ground cherries the seeds were saved from the onces some of our Amish freinds had growing --the plants were'nt too big [1 foot or so !] and very sweet like a pinapple like taste--we loved it !
The plants look kind of weedy but are coming along real nice --they told us once you have them --you'll always have them as they reseed like crazy --also they are very drought tolerent so easy to grow --once they are started
Are there other sweet types?
Thanks Britmum Janice

    Bookmark   July 21, 2004 at 7:02PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

In Zone 5, the chances of them sprouting up in a future years is much less. The only way these usually can continue is if one has dropped and its seeds have survived a winter. In Zone 5, it may be much better to just take one of the biggest ones, and save its seeds. Start the new seedlings indoors in small pots the following year at about the middle of April. Yes, there is a variety that has a pineapple taste and goes very well in a salsa that also has tomatoes and pineapple in it. To get the best out of a plant, the use of a slow release organic fertilizer is helpful. I prefer to also grow my tomatoes and peppers using a Gardens Alive product called Tomatoes Alive Plus. It will greatly improve the quality of the fruits as well as taste. Most of the types will vary in sweetness, but all are sweet to some degree if they are fully ripened. I believe there are only about four different types. Some are featured in catalogs like Totally Tomatoes, and Tomato Growers to name a few.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2004 at 11:50AM
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limhyl(z8 NC)

I grew 'Aunt Molly's' last year and they grew into four foot bushes that needed staking for sure. Mine were sweet but tasted too much like tomatos for my liking. I should have tried to make jam with them but found my chickens absolutyly adored them so i had a ball picking them off of the bush and feeding them. I would toss them on the ground and the chickens would race each other to see who got it first.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2004 at 8:45AM
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how loog does it take to grow tomatillos?Mine were planted in April.I have loads of yellow flowers.I've noticed a green bump inside when the flower falls off.The plant is three feet tall,and about three feet wide.Is this normal?

    Bookmark   August 26, 2004 at 4:02PM
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seattle_li(z8 Seattle)

No idea how long its "supposed" to take but here's my results from this year (for the sake of reference - I'm in Seattle - and my plants weren't put in till late (after Memorial Day)):

Purple tomatillo has a couple that seem to be ready (still very firm, but filling out/splitting the husk.

Mini "pineapple tomatillos" (which are also apparently ground cherries) have had about 2 cereal-size bowls ripe so far. They do fall to the ground when ripe (where apparently they reseed madly if you're not careful, fyi). Quite yummy, but almost a bit too sweet for my taste (great for the first 5-10, but then its too much).

the Unknown tomatillo seems to be growing fine, has fruits growing in husks as far as I can see, but none of them seem that big (filling the husk) or ripe yet as far as I can tell.

Here's my current dilemma - now what do I do with them?? I've asked around for recipes but without many results. The only answer I get seems to be "use them in salsa" but no one seems to have any particulars (add them to storebought, mix 1/4 tomatillos to 3/4 tomatoes, etc). For the pineapple tomatillos, it seems to be "make salsa", but again, no recipes forthcoming. [notice to all lurkers: if you've got any recipe that uses tomatillos - now's your chance!!]

hope this helps! :)

    Bookmark   August 26, 2004 at 5:41PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Try the HARVEST forum for more options with the tomatillos.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2004 at 12:02PM
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seattle_li(z8 Seattle)

gee, KS, looks like you're a multiforum lurker like me! (I think this site is turning into an addiction!)

I thought I had posted the tomatillo question there, but maybe not - I'll put it there as well.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2004 at 12:10PM
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tomatillo sauce:cut 4 c. 1/4's,add 2 jalapenos or serranos+2cloves garlic+2 T. water,simmer til soft.Puree with an avacado+2handsful fresh cilantro+juice of a lime+1/2 or more tsp.salt to taste+1/2 tsp ground cumin.
Good as a chip dip,taco sauce,or mix in cooked,shredded chicken and fill flour tortillas.
Can also leave out the avacado,or the cumin,or add Tabasco

    Bookmark   August 27, 2004 at 10:04PM
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tietie(z7b / 8 nc)

Here's a good 'alternative' chili using tomatillos. Has a completely different taste than my chili. Think southwestern chicken soup/stew.

Dove's Nest White Chili
Recipe By : Dallas Morning News
Serving Size : 10 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Mexican Restaurants
Beans Chicken
Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Med Onion -- chopped
3 Cloves Garlic -- minced
2 1/2 C Tomatoes, Red Ripe -- chopped
6 Whole Tomatillos -- diced
1 Whole Jalapeno -- seeded and minced
2 C Chicken Stock
1 C Chopped Green Chilies -- 17 oz
2 C Cooked Chicken -- chopped
1/2 Tsp Oregano
1/2 Tsp Cumin
4 Tbsp Fresh Cilantro -- chopped
2 Cans Cannellini Beans And Liquid -- 19 oz
1 Tbsp Lime Juice -- fresh
Salt And Pepper -- to taste
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook
until onion begins to solfen, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1-2
minutes longer. Do not brown.
Add tomatoes, tomatillos and jalapeno, cook until tomatillos are soft.
Add chicken stock, green chilies, cooked chicken, oregano, cumin,
cilantro, beans and lime juice.
Heat through and season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2004 at 11:52AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Not sure if you posted the recipe also to the HARVEST forum, but many may be inerested there as well.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2004 at 3:43PM
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Here's a recipe I used last year for ground cherry jam. It's different since it uses no pectin, but it thickens and holds the set real well. I thought as thick as it turned out that it would soon start to sugar up and crystallize. The flavor is light and fruity. Many seeds, but they are not too noticeable as compared to a raspberry jam.


Ground Cherry Jam
8 cups ground cherries (husked) (Pineapple or Aunt Molly or similar)
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2 lemons; grated rind & juice

Husk and wash the ground cherries carefully. Measure the sugar and water into a large kettle. Bring to a full rolling boil, and boil for 2 minutes.

Add the cherries, lemon rinds, and juice. Bring to a full rolling boil again, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with a clean towel, and let stand overnight. (in the refrigerator)

Next day, return to the heat, and again bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook gently until transparent (about 15 minutes). Immediately pour into hot, sterilized glasses seal at once.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2004 at 8:20PM
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Wow, those sound really good, I'm gonna have to try them!

    Bookmark   November 28, 2004 at 1:36PM
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Here's an update/correction to the Ground Cherry jam recipe I posted above.

The jam I made this year over last, was flavored too heavily with the two lemons, and the mild flavor of the fruit was lost. I'm not sure if I just grabbed the wrong recipe to to use and then post or what. Anyway, I would recommend changing the quantity of lemon to one or less, perhaps even tasting the jam before any lemon is added. I'm not sure if the lemon ingredient has anything to do with the ability of the jam to set. Perhaps some jam experts can add to this post to clarify its' purpose.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2004 at 9:37PM
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green_devo(7b, V. Island, BC)

This is my first year growing tomatillos and they seem to be doing fine in a tomato cage on my deck. The deer mowed down the ones I planted in my main garden, so I quickly potted the last of my transplants.

I've been cooking with them for years though.
I love to make pasta sauce , like a conventional tomato sauce, but boost the heat a little with chorizo sausage, jalapenos, mexican oregano and tons of garlic. It's delicious!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 1:58PM
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goodground(z6 NJ)

I think the lemon is added cause they are high in sugar. I guess like lemonade, lemon and sugar are a good combo.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 9:51PM
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I have two great recipes for Tomatillo Salsa Verde.


1 1/2 lbs. tomatillos
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 Jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
Salt to taste

1 Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Cut in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin.
2 Place tomatillos, lime juice, onions, cilantro, Jalapeno peppers, sugar in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt. Cool in refrigerator.
Serve with chips or as a salsa accompaniment to Mexican dishes.
Makes 3 cups.


1 lb fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and chopped
1 fresh Serrano chile, seeded (for less spiciness) and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt

Stir together all ingredients and let stand, covered, about 1 hour.
Cooks note: Salsa can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

Makes about 3 cups.

Another good tomatillo salsa recipe is found at
All Just copy and paste the following URL into the address field at the top of your screen.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 1:46PM
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From what I recollect, use of lemon or lime is to set pectin and/or to help preserve...Apparently, sugar does not preserve; it is the amount of acid hence tomatoes have different canning requirements than fruits, etc. I would need to go back and look at my canning book for specific info.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 3:18AM
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I have used them in stew, on home made pizza, in pasta sauce, Mango salsa, sliced on a veggi platter,but I like them the best in a salad (green or ripe) along side a tomato. Tried them in eggs this morning (green and firm, store bought though) with onions and peppers, NOT BAD. I will have to try them in Jam as it sounds good.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 2:10PM
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temills(8 Seattle)

We're possibly moving to Zone 11 I've heard that tomatoes are a challeng and I'm hoping that jalapenos and tomatillos will be all right there - wondering if it's going to be too humid. Any luck to report out there?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 6:19PM
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Even though this is an old question, I will answer it. Tomatoes and pepper = fabulous success in Hawaii year round. Tomatillos will grow great for about a month but they eventually turn yellow and the flowers never develop into fruit. They seem to be a favorite of whiteflies.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 4:30PM
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gellfex(6 NJ)

I got some volunteers in a bin of potting soil donated by moving neighbors that I just identified as some sort of ground cherry (my wife insisted they were weeds). Any way to narrow the ID?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 2:56PM
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