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How to Grow Tomatillo Plants

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Tomatillos are members of the nightshade family, and are closely related to tomatoes. The plant and leaves look like a tomato plant. So, it won'y surprise you to know that they are grown like a tomato. Thanks to the growing popularity of Tex-Mex cooking, more gardeners are adding a few Tomatillo plants to their gardens. It is a must have for your homemade Mexican salsa.

The fruit of the Tomatillo is green, and about the size of a large cherry tomato. The inside is white and meatier than a tomato. Tomatillos grow inside of a thin paper-like husk. They are used in salsa, jams and other mexican recipes.

Other Names: Tomatillos are also called Toma Verde and Ground Cherries

Green colored Tomatillos are commonly grown in the U.S. There are also purple and yellow husk varieties.

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Sowing Tomatillo Seeds:

Sow Tomatillo seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Sprouting tomatillo seeds is more successful when using a heated germination mat. Transplant tomatillo plants into your garden after all chance of frost has past. Plant seedlings 18 - 24 inches apart, in rows three to four feet apart.

Tip: Harden off your tomatillo plants, by bringing them outdoors for increasing amounts of time, beginning a week before transplanting. Make sure to bring them in, or put them in a cold frame, if frost is forecast.

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Days to Maturity:

90 - 100 days.

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How to Grow Tomatillo Plants:

Growing tomatillo plants is easy. Tomatillos like hot weather. They are grown just like tomatoes. Provide plenty of water, and mulch around the plant to retain water. Feed them regularly, and switch over from nitrogen to higher phosphorous and potassium as the plants grow, to promote flowering and fruit set.

Plants need support to grow their best, and to keep the fruit off the ground. Use stakes or cages.You can also tie them to fences.

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Insects and Pests:

Insect infestations are fairly uncommon. Occasional chewing and sucking pests will affect them. The most common pests are cutworms, snails and slugs.

Tip: Stake your plants up to keep the fruit off the ground. This keeps the snails and slugs away and damage from lying on the ground.

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Diseases of Tomatillos:

A number of plant problems can arise, usually in mid summer heat and humidity. Blights and fungus infections can occur in the high humidity. Early treatment with fungicides is effective. Spacing plants too close, cuts down air circulation and promotes disease.

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Tomatillos are ripe when the paper-like husk turns brown and breaks open. Remove the husk, and rinse the oily substance off. Store in a cool, dry place until you are ready to use them.

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Tomatillos are a tender annual. Transplant them in your garden after all danger of frost has past. Cover tender seedlings if frost is forecast. If there is fruit still on the plant in the fall, cover them with a sheet of plastic, a blanket, or an old tablecloth. They will succumb to any frost.

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More Information:

Homemade Salsa Recipe


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