Better known as Mexican husk tomatoes, tormatillos are related to regular tomatoes, but their fruits are extremely different. Tomartillos have been grown in Mexican cultures for centuries and were also essential aspects of the Aztec and Mayan cultures.
Usually, you’ll find tomatillos retailing in a green shade, but note that they can be purple, red, or yellow as well.
What’s more? Easy to grow in a sunny location and well-drained soils, Tomatillos can be added to stews and soups to add intriguing flavors and are also great for making dips, salads, and fresh salsa verde.
With that in mind, did you plant your Tomatillos and do everything right, expecting a great harvest, only to notice that their husks have started splitting just before the harvest season?
If yes, you’ve come to the right place for a detailed explanation.
Why Are My Tomatillos Splitting?
The reason tomatillos split has everything to do with their readiness (or lack thereof) for the harvest season. Allow me to elaborate using a detailed guide on how to know your Tomatillos are ready to harvest.
How To Tell When Tomatillos Are Ready For Harvesting
A general rule of thumb dictates that tomatillos will be sufficiently matured for a harvest 65 to 85 days from the day you sowed the seeds (depending on the variety of tomatillos you planted.)
Even if you’ve planted the same variety, note that the fruits on your tomatillo plants will not ripen all at once. Instead, different plant patches will continue to ripen over the next couple of months.
Some might think that’s a disadvantage, but I like it because it ensures that I have a consistent source of ripe tomatillos throughout an extended period, from summer well into fall.
What’s more? Tomatillo plants are amazingly prolific and indeterminate, so they’ll continue fruiting and flowering until frost is no more.
With that in mind, after the 65 to 85 days are up, an accurate way to ascertain whether or not your tomatillos are mature enough to harvest is to squeeze each husk of the fruits. Do it gently, though, and confirm if the tomatillo fruits have filled the husk.
A golden rule in the realm of planting tomatillos is that they’re ready to harvest only when they’ve filled their husks. If you press your husks and find them empty inside, worry not. That’s probably because these fruits aren’t self-fertile and will usually need a wide array of plants for pollination to happen and the fruits to begin to set.
As the tomatillos continue to ripen inside their husks, their exterior texture will increasingly become papery and thin, and their color will start changing to a brown shade.
If you still do not harvest your tomatillos and let them sit in your garden after their husks have developed a brown shade, the husk will usually split open. Once your tomatillo’s husks split open, it’s an indication that you have to harvest them right away and can’t let them sit anymore.
If you do not harvest them after their husks split open, the fruits will start getting soft, loosen their flavor, and eventually begin to rot.
Here’s a newbie tip. Ensure you harvest all your ripe tomatillos, lest you want a forest of self-sown seedlings the following year. Also, you’re advised to cosign all rotten and overripe tomatillo fruits to your hot compost heap.
Now that you know why and when tomatillos split, let’s skip to the next section of the guide.
How to Harvest Tomatillos
After you’ve decided that your tomatillos are sufficiently ripe and need to be harvested, you’ll still need to know what you’re doing, as this step is just as crucial. If you’ve ever harvested tomato plants successfully, you should have no issue harvesting ripe tomatillos since the process is remarkably similar.
The process is also similar to how you’d harvest eggplants and peppers, which, like tomatillos, belong to the Solanaceae, nightshade family. This implies that you’re advised to cut off your tomatillos from the plant instead of simply pulling.
Also worth noting, use sharp pruning shears or knives and leave little stems at the end of all tomatillos. Also, do not remove the husks on your fruits until you’re ready to cook or eat the fruits.
What about the twist method? You can also twist your tomatillos off their plants like peppers and regular tomatoes, but you’ll need to be extremely gentle. If you tug and pull at the plants too roughly, chances are you’ll end up damaging the stem, which will, in turn, destroy all other tomatillos still growing on that stem.
What’s more? Never get too fanatical, and try harvesting all of your tomatillos at the same time. As noted earlier, tomatillos ripen progressively on their plants, so you’ll need to keep checking on them and only harvest-ready fruits.
Sometimes, you’ll even have to skip several days before your next harvest.
What About Fruits That Fall Off the Plants?
While researching for this guide, another question most plant parents kept asking had to do with fruits that fall off their plants before their husks split.
The good news is this is quite common. Like regular green tomatoes, tomatillos continue the ripening process of their vines. All you’ll need to do is collect any that fall off and store them until their husks ripen.
Unlike their regular tomato cousins, tomatillos aren’t self-pollinating. This implies that in order for tomatillo flowers to set fruits, you’ll need at least two different plants. Otherwise, you will be left with nothing but plenty of pretty little yellow flowers and none of the tasty green edible fruits.
So, “why are my tomatillos splitting?” Because they have filled their papery husks and are now ready to harvest. Also worth noting, the period your tomatillos take to mature will depend on the variety of tomatillos you’ve planted, as well as whether you sowed your tomatillos or transplanted them.
As a general rule of thumb, they should be ready to harvest anywhere from 75 to 100 days.