Friday, July 29, 2011

Tomatillo madness

One of the many things to love about summer: There's always at least one plant that goes crazy with wild excess and abundance, gorging on every glorious photon. Oftentimes this plant is an old-fashioned winter squash, and while we've got one of those going to town in the main vegetable garden, this year's clear winner is the tomatillo.

Baby tomatillos June 4 (those little things next to the rose)

Monster six-foot tomatillos July 29

Down in Mexico tomatillos are considered to be a useful weed. They're prolific self sowers that pop up in corn field and on hillsides everywhere. Last year I grew three tomatillo plants in a different location, with a decent harvest of about 8 pints chopped. This year, with only two plants in a spot with radiating heat from the house, they're just going crazy. The bees are loving them too, so we're getting good pollination. May not get many ripe tomatoes this year, but the salsa verde is going to be awesome.

A side note on cultivation of tomatillos: You need two for cross-pollination. They say up to 1000 feet is sufficient for pollination, but that has not been my experience. The first year I tried to grow tomatillos, I asssumed they were self-pollinating like tomatoes, and planted my two plants on either end of a 20-foot row. They flowered their little hearts out, but only a couple of fruit formed. The 1000-foot rule may be useful for separation of varieties for seed-saving, however.

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