Tomatillo and ground cherry

Other Names: Tomatillo: husk tomato, jamberry, Mexican green tomato, strawberry tomato, tomate verde (Spain); Ground cherry: dwarf cape gooseberry, husk tomato, physalis, strawberry tomato.

General Description: Tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa and Physalis philadelphica_) and ground cherries (_Physalis peruviana and Physalis pruinosa) belong to the same family as the tomato. The tomatillo is a native of Mexico with shiny, flattened fruits that are greenish yellow in color and average 1 to 2 inches in diameter encased in papery husks. The husks split, but don’t fall off, and take on a purplish hue as the fruits mature. Their tart flavor hints of lemon, apple, and herbs, and is the primary feature of salsa verde. Although tomatillos can ripen to yellow, they are generally used while still green and quite firm.

The ground cherry, commonly called the cape gooseberry, is rare in the U.S. except for Pennsylvania Dutch country and parts of the Midwest. These small fruits are 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter and are encased in a loose, papery husk shaded with purple. When they are ripe, they resemble yellow cherry tomatoes. They are smaller and sweeter than tomatillos and can be eaten raw or used in preserves. The dwarf cape gooseberry is the most popularly grown variety. Its tight-fitting husk curls back to expose the ripe fruits.

Season: Tomatillos are available year-round and can be found sporadically in specialty stores. Latin American markets carry them regularly. Ground cherries can occasionally be found at farmers’ markets or specialty stores.

Purchase: Look for shiny, firm, dry tomatillos that fit snugly into their husks. Make sure that each tomatillo husk is dry to the touch. Inside the husk, the fruit should be green, which indicates that the tomatillo is not totally ripe, the preferred state.

Avoid: Avoid sticky or yellow tomatillos.

Storage: Store tomatillos in their husks in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.


  1. Remove the outer husk by pulling it off.
  2. Wash thoroughly before using.

Serving Suggestions: Simmer or roast whole tomatillos, onion, garlic, and jalapeƱos till soft, then blend to make a delicious green enchilada sauce. Add chopped tomatillos to guacamole. Dip ground cherries in chocolate, fondant, or caramel using the pulled-back husk as a handle.

Flavor Affinities: Cilantro, cucumber, green chile peppers, grilled foods, lime, pumpkin seeds, tequila, tomatoes, onion.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com