I have a special place in my heart for currant tomatoes. They’re wild and free-growing. They are quite literally their own species (Lycopersicon pimpinellifolium). Naughty, unruly, and rebellious, they will blanket the garden in a webbing of lace-like foliage if you turn your attention away for even a moment. They are out of control and promiscuous. They readily cross-pollinate with other tomatoes in the garden, spreading their genes where you don’t want them. And once they get started, they never seem to stop producing legions of the tiniest, pop-in-your-mouth fruit.
They are too much, and yet I always go back for more.
[Giveaway details can be found at the end of this post.]
This week I was a guest on Margaret Roach of A Way to Garden.com‘s radio show. We spoke at length about growing tomatillos as well as other edible crops of the same genus (Physalis). You can listen to that episode over here.
Tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa) have only recently gained popularity as a backyard garden crop across North America and are definitely worth growing if you’re a Mexican food nut. I first learned of this tomato-like fruit on a trip to southern Mexico many years ago. At first I thought the tangy, green sauce we were served with quesadillas was made of green tomatoes, until I did some research and discovered it was a different fruit entirely. Back at home I started buying salsa verde in cans at a Latin American food store in Toronto’s Kensington Market. I honestly believed for a time that store-bought was good enough and couldn’t be improved until I grew my own and learned just how wrong I was. Like their botanical cousin the tomato (both plants are nightshade or Solanaceae family plants), tomatillos are infinitely better tasting when grown at home organically. They are sweeter, tarter, more flavourful, and complex. They are a surprise.
Davin surprised me with this drawing on our kitchen chalkboard this morning.
I know that some of you in the warmer regions have already started your tomato seeds. Around here I still have a month(ish) to go before I will start my first batch of dwarf varieties.
Which varieties are you growing or planning to grow this year?
I live in the northeast and am starting a bunch of mine today underneath lights. The following are a few tips gleaned from my own past blunders and successes to help you get started with yours.
Onions & Shallots: Depending on the type, onions are fairly flexible plants that will tolerate a certain amount of rule-breaking on your part. Bunching onions aka scallions tend to be tougher and can be direct sown outdoors in mid-Spring with some frost protection (a cold frame, bottle cloche, or cover).
I elected to overwinter one pepper plant this winter, a mild “hot pepper” variety called ‘Trinidad Perfume’ (I purchased mine from Solana Seeds.) And wouldn’t you know it the darned thing up and made a little fruit. It’s a teeny, weeny jewel of a thing — barely worth a mention, really. But it is orange and it glistens in the sun (when we have sun) and right about now it’s about the most charming thing around.