Those tasty and juicy tomatillos are impossible to not like in your meals.
But you have to make sure they’re ripe, ready to be consumed.
Otherwise, you’re set for disappointment…
That’s why you need to learn when to pick tomatillos and how to do so correctly.
Luckily for you, we know exactly how to make that happen.
We’re going to show you EVERYTHING there’s to know about tomatillos, how and when to harvest them, plus a few tips on how to conserve them further.
Care to know more? Take a peek!
Table of Contents
How Do Tomatillos Grow?
Before going into details about harvest, learn HOW they grow so you can identify more quickly when they’re ready.
And well, tomatillos are weird…
This will tell you a lot about tomatillos. One thing would be the husk that covers the fruit as it grows. In contrast with other yields, this one comes with a thin layer or husk that feels like paper. Many nightshades also have this, but tomatillo is the only one that grows INSIDE this husk UNTIL it’s ready.
Secondly, tomatillos have a specific way to grow their juiciness. At first, the husk grows alone, so you may think the plant is almost ready. But in reality, the husk grows first and creates the tomatillo inside – which could take a few weeks.
That’s why it’s essential to know how it grows. You may think it’s ready when in reality it’s not, as the husk covers the fruit, and you have no idea how it’s going until you touch it (empty husk).
Where do Tomatillos Grow?
To make sure your tomatillos grow bigger and healthier, you need to grow them under full sun exposure and well-drained soil.
They aren’t pleased with humidity but can handle mild moisture in the environment. They should grow without issues as long as they receive enough sun (at least 5 hours) and are well-watered.
What Does a Tomatillo Look Like?
If we had to say a single thing about how tomatillos are like, it would be MYSTERIOUS.
Tomatillos grow like a tiny lamp hanging from the plant. This lamp-like fruit is the husk.
What is mysterious is that you don’t really ever see the tomatillo until harvest. Sometimes, the husk falls by itself as the fruit matures – but this doesn’t always happen.
Apart from that, most tomatillos have a greenish to a yellowish husk. Depending on how much the tomatillo has grown, it may change colors, but it’s generally in this range.
Once the husk falls, you will notice they look almost exactly like a tomato… but SMALL.
That’s one of the signs you should start harvesting.
When to Pick Tomatillos? | 5 Signs it is Ready to Harvest
It won’t be easy to know when the tomatillos are ready if you haven’t grown them before (or have no idea how they mature).
But it’s not that hard, either. As long as you know the KEY FACTORS that matter, you’ll have an easy time. Here’s what to consider:
How much time has passed since the plant was planted?
If this is the first time the plant produces tomatillos, it may take between 60 and 90 days to see them fully mature.
This is a broad range as tomatillos will mature depending on their species (more on that later).
But if you want to have a better idea, count about 2 up to 3 months from the moment you plant. This is when it takes to grow those tomatillos ripe (anything lower is not inedible or higher may become too ripened).
EXTRA FACTS: They grow faster in warm environments with sufficient sunlight and well-drained soils. In that case, they will also ripen a lot quicker.
The Tomatillo Split
Another CLEAR sign of a ready-to-harvest tomatillo would be what’s called the “split.”
This is what happens when the husk starts to fall off the tomatillo. It doesn’t always happen that it falls, but it certainly will look a lot less firm. That is, the husk brittles off and becomes papery (much easier to remove).
The way to check this is by touching the tomatillo. You should feel how the husk slowly fades away as you handle it.
If the husk doesn’t move and still feels firm, the tomatillo is not ready yet. You will have to wait until this husk splits easily.
AVOID THIS: You may be able to put some pressure into the husk and break it. This could make you think the tomatillo is ready… when it’s NOT. When testing for the split, handle the tomatillo carefully.
Color of the Tomatillo
Say the husk is still on the tomatillo, but you don’t want to touch it…
Well, you can also check its maturity by the color.
A ripe tomatillo will boast a more brownish tone. But it also depends heavily on the variety. Some of them will turn yellowish, while others may boast the purplish of the tomato.
You need to know that BRIGHT GREEN on the husk is a sign of a still-to-ripe tomatillo.
Also, the tomatillo itself should look TASTY. That is a more vibrant color regardless of the variety. If there’s a sign of paleness or light green on the surface of the fruit – that tomatillo still needs to grow.
TO BE AWARE: Check the color of the husk and tomatillo if you can. When the husk doesn’t turn brittle as the fruits ripen, you may need to dig a bit deeper (but try not to cause damage as you rip the husk off).
Size of the Tomatillo
Tomatillos are smaller than a typical tomato and about the same size as a cherry tomato (sometimes twice as big).
This is a great way to notice whether the tomatillo is ready because if it looks too small (especially compared to others hanging), it’s probably still in the growing stage.
You should be aware that not every tomatillo will grow to the same size, though. Some will mature even when tiny, while others will grow surprisingly large and still need some time to mature.
The general rule is to check the tomatillo every few days. If you see that it’s stopped growing for 5 days – that’s likely a ripen fruit ready to be harvested.
TO CONSIDER: Tomatillos will be a bit heavier when they’re ripe in comparison to when they’re growing. This happens because they tend to become juicier as they achieve maturity.
Brittle Stems and Fallen Tomatillos
Tomatillos will fall off the plant once they become sufficiently ripen. This won’t happen to every tomatillo, but their stems will still become a lot easier to break.
You don’t have to wait for this to happen, though. It’s better to harvest a bit before that. However, tomatillos falling will tell you other tomatillos could be picked already.
If you get to pull a tomatillo from the stem in one pull, that’s a sign of enough ripeness. But if the tomatillos are still firmly grabbed to the plant, there’s probably still some time to grow.
TO KNOW: Tomatillos should also feel a bit softer than when they’re growing. Overripen tomatillos turn almost mushy, which is something you don’t want. Juiciness is the way to go.
Can you Harvest Tomatillos Early?
Yes. You can harvest tomatillos as soon as the fruit is large enough. In fact, tomatillos are often harvested early because people only check one of the factors above (instead of several ones).
For example, husks may fall because the climate is too hot and sunny. The husks turn brittle quicker, but the plant doesn’t ripe that fast. As a consequence, you harvest the tomatillo thinking it’s ready when it’s still green.
Another common issue is that people harvest AS SOON as the tomatillos look big enough, without paying attention to the stem’s husk, color, or brittleness. Because tomatillos can grow larger than typical in some cases, this happens a lot.
Luckily, harvesting early doesn’t mean the tomatillo will go to waste. They are still edible, though not as sweet or juicy. Also, you can preserve them in a warm and dark environment for a few days until they ripen a bit more.
The Different Tomatillo Varieties
As explained before, the size, color, and time of a mature tomatillo will depend on its variety. Here, we go over the most popular ones so you can have a better idea of what to look for according to what species you’re growing:
Grande Rio Verde (Physalis ixocarpa ‘Grande Rio Verde’)
TIME TO HARVEST: 80 to 85 days
The tomatoes have an apple-green color instead of the typical pale green. As they mature, the tomato weighs about 3 ounces and grows up to 3 inches in size. The husk in this variety tends to turn brownish when it’s ready for harvest.
Pineapple Tomatillo (Physalis pruinose)
TIME TO HARVEST: 70 to 95 days
The name will tell you a bit about the tomatillo: it’s yellow. While the plant can grow 1-inch fruits and husks of the same color, turning a bit brighter as it matures. These are smaller tomatillos than usual but grow decently quickly in sunny areas.
Purple Tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica ‘Purple de Milca’)
TIME TO HARVEST: 70 to 80 days
Its name gives a lot away: the tomatillo looks purple as it matures. You will notice how the tiny tomatillos grow from green to this dark color as the plant ripens. Each tomatillo can grow to 2 inches in size and boast a dark purplish husk as they mature.
Toma Verde (Physalis philadelphica)
TIME TO HARVEST: 65 to 90 days
This is the most popular tomatillo out there. Each tomatillo grows to 2 or 3 inches and features a typical green tone. The green husk is often light and bright but often achieves an orangey look.
How to Harvest Tomatillos?
- Found that your tomatillos are ready to be harvested? Don’t wait more of your time and get them off!
- But first, learn how to harvest those tomatillos the right way. Here are some tips to consider:
- Don’t pull off the tomatillo – be careful when cutting off with a PRUNER OR CLIPPER. Leave a part of the stem left in the fruit (increases preservation time).
- Twist gently if brittle – maybe the tomatillo is ripe enough for the stem to be almost broken already. A gentle twist will suffice.
- Don’t peel the husk away – tomatillos without their husk tend to rot a lot quicker, so you may want to leave it (unless already broken)
- Don’t place them too close together – if the tomatillos are one over the other; they may cause damage to each other. Prevent this from happening by placing them with enough leeway.
These are the most valuable tips you can consider when harvesting. But even then, how often should you do it? And more importantly, how many tomatillos will there be?
How often to harvest tomatillos?
You should PREFERABLY harvest when the tomatillos are ready, considering the signs above. But you may want to harvest a bit sooner if temperatures start to lower too quickly.
Having said that, the harvesting season may last up to 3 months. That means you can start harvesting mid-summer as the fruits start to ripen up to early fall when the last ones are still hanging.
How many tomatillos per plant?
It depends on the variety and the overall environmental conditions. Tomatillo plants in ideal places can grow 200 tomatillos or more. But small tomatillo plants in less-than-ideal conditions may not produce more than 50 or 60 fruits.
You can say a typical tomatillo plant produces 2 pounds of tomatillos per season. Some can grow up to 3 pounds.
How to Store Tomatillos After Harvest?
Once you’ve picked up most tomatillos of the plant, it’s time to consume them, right?
Well, you’ve probably harvested a few dozen tomatillos – and you don’t want to use them yet!
That’s why learning how to store them could be so helpful.
Here are some tips that will help you preserve them safely:
- Keep the husk if you’re storing the tomatillos for more than a week (this husk helps to maintain them for longer)
- Don’t store tomatillos in the refrigerator without cover. They will chill out and turn mushy.
- Don’t store them alongside other fruits like bananas, apples, or strawberries that rot quickly (and spread ethylene) that may also provoke rotting on your tomatillos.
- Keep them from contact with insects like flies and beetles that may want to eat the fruit. This is bad for obvious reasons and may rot the tomatillos quicker.
Overall, it’s about protecting from anything different than their ideal environment when harvested.
Can tomatillos be frozen?
Yes. You can freeze them to preserve them for at least a couple of months.
There’s no assurance your tomatillos will last that long, but it’s a lot more likely they will if frozen.
You will need to peel away the tomatillos and cut them into tiny pieces. And if you want them firm and whole, place them inside a container or bag to keep them from ice damage.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Tomatillos tend to be used for all kinds of preparations that require tinier and firmer tomatoes. This includes salads, burritos, and hot dogs. Due to their sweet taste, tomatillos are also ideal for sauces.
Yes. They’re totally safe and super tasty.
Yes. They’re the same type of nightshade fruit but with different growth and appearance.
Not at all. Even if you eat a green tomatillo that hasn’t ripened yet, it should be no problem at all.
There’s nothing to worry about if you don’t know when to pick tomatillos. As you should know already, the signs are as clear as water.
Just remember that tomatillos will vary depending on the species and overall environment. Consider those before picking the tomatillos once and for all…
You don’t want to end up with raw tomatillos still ripening by mistake.