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How To Tell If Tomatillos Are Ripe? The Ultimate Guide!

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Tomatillos are the weird-looking distant cousins of our beloved regular tomatoes. Native to Central America, you will usually find these fruits growing wild in fields of beans and corn, where they are gathered by the natives either to be sold in local markets or be eaten and used at home.

As with all other abundant produces in an area, the local cuisine in Central America has also come to rely on the distinctive qualities of tomatillos. In fact, most lovers of Mexican foods find it more convenient to grow tomatillos in their gardens.

That said, the similarity in requirements to successfully grow tomatillos and tomatoes really ends there. The appearance of tomatillos with their papery husks is quite different, which has left most of my readers wondering how to tell if tomatillos are ripe.

If you’ve been wondering the same thing, you’ve come to the right place for the ultimate answer. This guide will also look at the best tomatillo planting practices and things you can inspect if you notice your tomatillos aren’t producing or ripening as you desire.

Without further ado, let’s jump into it.

are unripe tomatillos poisonous
Tomatillos Ripening on the Stem – via Flickr

How To Tell If Tomatillos Are Ripe

Tomatillo plants usually produce lots of leaves and sufficiently grow in height before they start making any fruits or even flowers. You can generally expect the plant to mature and start the fruits production stage around 75 or 100 days after planting. Another point worth noting is that after the fruits start setting in, the plant remains productive until frost.

With that in mind, something you must’ve noticed with your tomatillo plant right away is that its round fruits are usually covered in papery husks that resemble hanging lanterns as they grow. The first sign that these fruits have started to ripen will be that they’ll completely fill their husks.

If you let the tomatillo fruits sit on their plant a little longer, the husks will usually split open and reveal the fat little fruits on the inside. This is usually the last ripening stage, and you’ll be required to harvest your tomatillos right away. If you don’t, expect them to start rotting on the plant.

Even worse, allowing your tomatillo fruits to reach the last ripening stage sends a signal to the mother plants that their work is done and they should stop producing, which significantly reduces your future yields.

Another point worth noting, the regular green tomatillos will usually turn either yellow or apple green when completely ripe. Purple ones, on the other hand, start in a green shade but then turn into a dusky eggplant color as they ripen. As a general rule of thumb, the purple varieties tend to be less sour compared to the green ones.

Also, after your tomatillos have filled their husks, you do not need to let them fill their husks before harvesting. You can do the harvesting as soon as their husks are filled, but note that the fruits won’t be as sweeter as they would have been if you had let them mature completely.

What’s more? If you plan to store your tomatillo fruits for future use, you’ll need to keep them in their husks and refrigerate them right away. Even then, note that they’ll only last several weeks, so you’ll need to use them up as fast as you can.

how can you tell if tomatillos are bad
via Pixabay

Tomatillo Care

So, did you come here looking for a guide on how to tell if tomatillos are ripe but are now convinced that something may be wrong with your tomatillo plants? If yes, I’d also like to share some tomatillo care tips and things to keep in mind and ensure your fruits successfully reach their maturity ripening levels.

1.      Fertilizer

There won’t be any need to fertilize your tomatillos more often than not. That said, while tomatillos are extremely light feeders compared to their counterparts, tomatoes, it’s still a great idea to work in some compost to the soil you’ll be planting the fruits before the actual planting begins.

2.      Humidity and Temperature

Tomatillos have been proven to thrive best in climates with hot summers. As long as you’ve met the temperature levels required, you can rest assured the humidity levels won’t really matter.

3.      Water

For successful tomatillo planting, you’re required to not only add lots of organic matter to the soil you’ll be doing the planting, but you’ll also need to carry out a soil test to ascertain that the ground is ready (in every sense of the word) to grow your plants.

As a golden rule, tomatillos usually prefer well-drained soil with a somewhat neutral soil PH of between 6.5 and 7.0. for the most part, however, these plants will grow anywhere there is sunshine, heat, and regular water.

4.      Light

As with all other plants out there, your tomatillo plants will need a perfect spot in the full sun in order to fruit well and retain their health and vibrance.

5.      Pests

As with all other plants, you’ll need to stay vigilant and regularly inspect your tomatillos and ensure the plants aren’t infested. If you notice any early signs of infestation or infection, act accordingly before the issue intensifies and either gets to the point of no return or drastically affects your yield.

If you’ve ever harvested tomatillos before, you must’ve also noticed that the tomatillos themselves are a little sticky underneath their husks. The sticky stuff contains chemicals referred to as withanolides. Along with the tomatillos’ husks, these withanolides help tomatillo plants ward off insects.

Final Thoughts

So, to conclude, the best indicator that your tomatillos are ripe and it’s time to pick them is to observe their husks. If you notice that the fruits are green and have filled out their husks, they’re ready to be harvested.

If you leave them to ripen further, the fruits will usually split their husks and either turn purple or yellow, depending on the variety of tomatillos you have in your garden.