Latin Name: Physalis philadelphica (also known as Physalis ixocarpa for the cultivated variety)
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade family)
Synonyms: Physalis ixocarpa (common synonym for the cultivated variety)
Common Names: Tomatillo, Mexican Husk Tomato, Ground Cherry, Jamberry, Husk Berry, Husk Tomato
Natural or Hybrid: Tomatillo is a natural species that is native to Mexico.
Wild Species: Wild tomatillo species include Physalis philadelphica and other related Physalis species.
Description: Tomatillos are small, green, tomato-like fruits enclosed in a papery husk. They are usually about the size of a golf ball and have a tart, slightly citrusy flavor. The plant itself is a sprawling annual herb with bright green leaves and small yellow flowers. The fruits grow inside the husk, which turns brown and splits open when the tomatillo is ripe.
Species of tomatillo
List of known species: There are several known species within the Physalis genus, to which the tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica) belongs. Some of the known species include:
- Physalis philadelphica: This is the species commonly referred to as the tomatillo. It is native to Mexico and is widely cultivated for its green, tangy fruits.
- Physalis peruviana: Also known as Cape gooseberry, goldenberry, or Peruvian ground cherry, this species produces small, orange fruits enclosed in a papery husk.
- Physalis alkekengi: Known as Chinese lantern or bladder cherry, this species is grown for its decorative bright orange or red papery husks that enclose the small fruit. It is primarily ornamental.
- Physalis pubescens: Commonly called the husk tomato or ground cherry, it produces small, round fruits within papery husks and is related to the tomatillo.
- Physalis ixocarpa: This is a synonym for the cultivated variety of the tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica), often used interchangeably.
- Physalis heterophylla: Also known as clammy ground cherry, it produces small edible fruits and is found in various regions of North America.
- Physalis angulata: Known as cutleaf ground cherry, it produces small, edible fruits and is native to the Americas.
- Physalis minima: Commonly referred to as pygmy ground cherry, it is native to the tropical regions of the Americas and produces small fruits within papery husks.
- Physalis longifolia: This species is known as longleaf ground cherry and is native to North America, producing small, edible fruits.
- Physalis virginiana: Also known as Virginia ground cherry or ground cherry, it is native to North America and produces small, edible fruits.
These are just a few of the known species within the Physalis genus. The genus is diverse, with many species and varieties found in different parts of the world, some cultivated for their fruits and others valued for their ornamental characteristics.
Wild species: Wild species within the Physalis genus include:
- Physalis philadelphica: This is the original, naturally occurring tomatillo species and is native to Mexico. It is the ancestor of the cultivated tomatillo variety (Physalis ixocarpa). In the wild, Physalis philadelphica grows naturally and produces small, green fruits encased in papery husks, similar to the cultivated tomatillo. This wild tomatillo species is an essential part of the genetic diversity within the Physalis genus.
- Physalis longifolia: This wild species is native to North America and is commonly known as longleaf ground cherry. It produces small, edible fruits within papery husks.
- Physalis angulata: Also known as cutleaf ground cherry, this wild species is native to the Americas and produces small, edible fruits.
- Physalis minima: The pygmy ground cherry is a wild species native to the tropical regions of the Americas. It produces small fruits within papery husks.
- Physalis heterophylla: Commonly known as clammy ground cherry, this wild species is found in various regions of North America and produces small, edible fruits.
- Physalis virginiana: Also referred to as Virginia ground cherry or ground cherry, this wild species is native to North America and produces small, edible fruits enclosed in papery husks..
Properties and Actions:
Tomatillos are rich in nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants. They are known for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. They also contain dietary fiber, which can aid in digestion.
Mineral and Nutrient Content:
Tomatillos are a good source of several minerals such as potassium, manganese, and iron. They also contain small amounts of other minerals like magnesium.
Parts Used Medicinally:
The most commonly used part of the tomatillo plant for medicinal purposes is the fruit. However, in some traditional herbal practices, other parts of the plant, such as the leaves and stems, may be used.
- Tomatillos are often used in traditional medicine for their potential antioxidant properties, which may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
- They are also used for their anti-inflammatory effects and may be incorporated into herbal remedies for conditions involving inflammation.
- Some herbalists may use tomatillos as part of cancer prevention and treatment protocols.
- Tomatillos are a key ingredient in Mexican and Central American cuisine, particularly in dishes like salsa verde and green enchilada sauce.
- They can be eaten raw, roasted, or boiled and are used to add a tangy flavor to various dishes.
- Tomatillos can also be used in salads, soups, and stews.
- Salsa Verde: Tomatillos, peppers, onions, and basil are blended to make a green salsa that pairs well with tacos and more.
Green Enchilada Sauce: A sauce made from tomatillos, green chilies, and other ingredients is used to smother enchiladas.
Tomatillo Salsa: Fresh tomatillo salsa can be made with tomatillos, lime, basil, and seasonings to be served with tortilla chips or as a condiment.
Contraindications, Interactions, and Side Effects:
- Tomatillos are generally safe to consume in moderate amounts as part of a balanced diet.
- However, some individuals may be sensitive or allergic to tomatillos, and excessive consumption may lead to digestive discomfort.
- If you have a known allergy to plants in the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers, you should exercise caution when trying tomatillos.
Preparation and Dosage:
- There are no established dosages for tomatillos in herbal medicine. They are typically consumed in culinary dishes.
- Enjoy tomatillos in recipes as desired but be mindful of personal tolerance and preferences for their tart flavor.
Alkaline vegan tomatillo recipes
Here’s an alkaline vegan tomatillo recipe for a Tomatillo Avocado Salad:
- 4 tomatillos, husked and washed
- 2 ripe avocados, diced
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 habernero pepper, seeded and finely chopped (adjust to your spice preference)
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
- Sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste
- Start by preparing the tomatillos. Husk and wash them, then finely dice them. You can also choose to roast them for a slightly different flavor. To do this, cut the tomatillos in half and place them under a broiler for a few minutes until they start to char. Allow them to cool and then dice them.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the diced tomatillos, avocados, red onion, habernero, and basil.
- Squeeze the juice of one lime over the mixture. If you like a bit of added richness, you can also add a tablespoon of olive oil, but it’s optional.
- Gently toss the salad to combine all the ingredients. Be careful not to mash the avocados too much.
- Season the salad with sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste. You can also add more lime juice or adjust the seasoning to your preference.
- Serve your tomatillo avocado salad as a refreshing side dish or as a topping for alkaline grain bowls, salads, or as a dip with alkaline crackers or chips.
This tomatillo avocado salad is not only delicious but also alkaline and vegan-friendly. It’s a great way to enjoy the unique flavor of tomatillos while staying true to an alkaline diet.
– The Ethnobotany and Ethnopharmacology of Wild Tomatillos, Physalis longifolia Nutt., and Related Physalis Species: A Review. https://nativeplants.ku.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Physalis-Ethnobotany-paper.pdf
– Physalis ixocarpa. Plants for a Future. https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Physalis_ixocarpa
– Tomatillo Production in California. https://escholarship.org/content/qt0x21384r/qt0x21384r.Tomatillo. https://www.uky.edu/ccd/sites/www.uky.edu.ccd/files/tomatillo.pdf
– Tomatillo or husk tomato (Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa): A review. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304423821004131