This Monday, we feature a recipe for tomatillos from Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook, as well as growing, storage and preparation tips.

Michael Burris, a volunteer cooking, tasting and testing recipes out of the Vermont Fresh Handbook tested these recipes.  He’s adapted this recipe and tested it, as well as provided the photos.

Recipe: Tomatillo and Chicken Stew

Serves 6
(adapted from the Mexican Hass Avocados Importers Association:


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
  • 2 cups tomatillos, diced
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sour cream and sliced avocado (optional)


  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil.  Add sweet potatoes, celery, and onion.  Cook 5 minutes, then add garlic and cumin and cook another 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in broth, chicken, and diced tomatillos.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until tomatillos are soft, 15—20 minutes.
  3. Add cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.  Before serving, garnish with sour cream and avocado if desired.

Michael’s comments:

  1. It is very good!
  2. I used a bit more onion and garlic than the recipe called for. That is personal preference.
  3. Adding sour cream absolutely takes it up a notch!
  4. I like to buy a chicken roaster that is already cooked and pick the chicken off for soups like this. It tastes better and it’s already cooked. You can also use the carcass to make homemade broth which also tastes better.
  5. This stew could totally work without the chicken. This would keep the cost down and keep it vegetarian.
  6. It is hard to figure out exactly how much it costs to make this recipe, but I’d say $10-$15.
  7. It makes 6 hearty servings.


Round and shiny, tomatillos somewhat resemble small tomatoes.  Unlike tomatoes, however, they are surrounded by a papery husk and are usually (though not always) green in color.  The more common green and yellow cultivars have a distinctly tart flavor, while the varieties that ripen to red and purple tend to be sweeter.  Originally from Central and South America, tomatillos remain an integral part of Latin American cuisine today. If you have ever eaten a green salsa, it probably contained a healthy dose of tomatillos. It is believed that the Aztecs started growing tomatillos nearly 3000 years ago.  The bushy, tomato-like plants are now grown all across the Western Hemisphere.

Growing Tips

Tomatillos have essentially all the same growing requirements as tomatoes with one major exception: because tomatillos can be poor self-pollinators, it is a good idea to plant at least two of them alongside each other to ensure that they set fruit.  Start tomatillo seeds indoors early in the spring as you would with tomatoes, about 6-8 weeks before the last frost.  Harden off by reducing water and transplant outdoors when the soil has warmed and all danger of frost has passed.  Tomatillos like it hot, so plant them in a very sunny spot with well-drained, fertile soil.  The plants will get very bushy, so be sure to leave at least 3 feet between them.  Depending on the variety you choose, your plants may need staking.  Water at regular intervals and check often for disease.  Like tomatoes, tomatillos are susceptible to late blight.  Fruits are ready to harvest when the husk turns light brown and begins to dry back slightly.


For optimal storage, remove the husks from your tomatillos, seal them in plastic bags, and refrigerate.  Stored this way, they will often last for more than two weeks.  Avoid washing before storing; excess moisture can cause the fruit to rot prematurely.  For long-term storage, tomatillos can be frozen whole or sliced.  Additionally, they can be made into sauce or salsa and canned.

Nutritional Benefits

Tomatillos are a good source of Vitamins A and C.  They also contain significant quantities of potassium, which helps to regulate blood pressure and aids in proper muscle contraction.  Small amounts of calcium and folic acid can be found in tomatillos as well.


Before preparing tomatillos, remove the husks and wash the fruits thoroughly to remove any stickiness.  Tomatillos are very acidic and are almost always cooked before eating.  For general use, try steaming them in a covered pan for 5-10 minutes to soften them slightly.  Tomatillos can also be fried, roasted, or added to a salsa mixture and simmered away.  Chiles and tomatoes pair very well with tomatillos.

To receive more recipes and tips on your favorite fruits and vegetables, download Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.  We also need more volunteer home chefs for this project.

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