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Tomatillos: What Makes Green Salsa Green
Without the tomatillo, many Mexican dishes would be missing their tang. Learn more about these little green jewels with Groupon’s guide.
It might look like a small, green tomato, but when you peel back the papery husk to bite into a tomatillo, you’ll taste something more like a lemon or an all-natural Sourpatch Kid. These tart little fruits are members of the nightshade family, just like their cousins the tomato and cape gooseberry, but their flavors are more citrusy and herbal. Typically an inch or two in diameter, tomatillos develop slightly sticky, firm flesh encased in an inedible husk. They are harvested before ripening to ensure they keep their acidic bite, which marks many traditional Mexican sauces, stews, and moles—if it’s pale green, tangy, and Mexican, you can assume that tomatillos were involved.
Tomatillos originated in ancient Mexico, where they were cultivated by the Aztecs and Mayans. Their name, like the word tomato, comes from the Aztec word “tomatl,” meaning something round and plump; “tomatillo,” fittingly, means “little tomato” in Spanish. But if you run across something called a husk tomato, jam berry, or Mexican green tomato, know that these are tomatillos too, and are probably just hiding from their creditors.