Riverford Wicked Leeks

tomatillo tales

I have found my dream crop; now all I have to do is persuade you to eat it. Most commercial fruit and veg varieties have been bred over many generations for uniformity, yield, earliness and cosmetic appearance. In the process they have lost the ability to look after themselves, needing to be mollycoddled with irrigation and constant weeding and, for non-organic farmers, agrochemicals and fertilisers to coax out their impressive yields. To make matters worse, in our restless search for culinary stimulation we have often taken crops outside their climatic comfort zones, thus adding to their stresses. If only we were all happy with rye and turnips with the occasional cobnut, rabbit or piece of mutton, a farmer’s life would be a doddle.

In contrast to this typical battle, it is such a joy to grow a crop where it is really happy, as we are finding with the first tomatillo harvest on our farm in France. Even in this dreadful growing year, when their distant American cousins the chillies and peppers have struggled, the tomatillos have been rampant. They brushed off the early floods and gales and are now spreading over the field with impressive vigour. They appear to have no pests, no diseases, need no feeding and little irrigation. They are fruiting well beyond expectations so all we need to do now is persuade you to go Mexican.

Tomatillos should be eaten when they are firm and green, so don’t wait for them to look like tomatoes. Store them in the salad compartment of your fridge and use them within a week. You will also need to remove the inedible papery husk before cooking. Tangy, with a citrus sweetness, I’ve been grilling, barbecuing and roasting them and have even included them in stews, but there is no doubt that their best use is in Mexican salsa verde (not to be confused with the Italian herb-based condiment of the same name) where they combine so well with coriander, garlic, and chilli. Through impeccable planning (!) we have garlic and chillies from the same field in the Vendée and a good supply of coriander from the home farms, so there’s no excuse not to give them a go.


Guy Watson