Today’s Meatless Monday blog was written by Catherine Bilinski, a volunteer testing and tasting recipes from our Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook. She takes us into her kitchen and shares her stories and tips for cooking with tomatillo stew.

Tomatillo Stew – serves 6
(adapted from the Mexican Hass Avocados Importers Association: stew recipe

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 veggie broth
2 cups tomatillos, diced
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken (optional)
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 (if using), 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.

This dish was very easy to prepare.  It took about 35-40 minute to make and cook once the chicken was cooked.  We used chicken thighs and poached them to keep them moist.  We reduced the cumin to 1 teaspoon as 1 tablespoon seemed like too much.  For the broth, we used a 50-50 mixture of low sodium broth and the cooking liquid from the poached chicken.  We did not add additional salt or pepper.  All three teen boys and the adult female loved it.  We found it to be filling enough to serve 6 and also a good value, costing around $15 to prepare.  One tester advised caution using the sour cream as it could overwhelm the other flavors, but all agreed it added body to the stew.  It was suggested in the future to puree the avocado to distribute it more evenly and also to dice it so there would be a little in each bite.  We would also suggest using more tomatillos, around three cups as it cooked down.

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.

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.

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.

To receive more recipes and tips on your favorite fruits and vegetables, download Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.

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