Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pineapple Tomatillo

Last winter I knew I wanted to grow some tomatillos, but I debated what kind. In the past I had grown the typical green ones. I was thinking of getting them when I read the description of the pineapple tomatillos. Oh these I had to try. I had images of pineapple tasting salsa dancing in my head.

It turns out they aren't really tomatillos. Tomatillos come from the genus Physalis as do all the little husk fruited plants like Chinese lanterns and ground cherries. However tomatillos are of the species ixocarpa (wild tomatillos are from the species philadelphica). My little pineapple tomatillo is of the species pruinosa, which are commonly called strawberry tomatoes or cape gooseberries. But then again does it really matter? No. My little "tomatillo" will taste just as sweet no matter what the botanists call it, but it is nice to know that I can grow this and tomatillos together next year and not have them cross. It makes saving seed so much easier.

The plants have steadily grown over the last few months. In a way they have been fairly boring plants so I haven't spoken of them much. Yes their leaves get chewed on occasionally, but it doesn't seem to bother them much. They grow steadily, but not like crazy. They haven't given me anything to eat yet, so they haven't garnered much attention.

Recently their steady growth has put them in contention with the carrots. The carrots will be pulled soon to give them more room, but they are slowly trying to grow up and over the carrots. When I grew real tomatillos, they had an upright habit much like a tomato. They liked to be caged to keep from slumping over. This one likes to creep over the ground. When the seed catalog said it would spread to 3' wide I imagined a bush, not a short little creeping plant. I'm wondering if I grew it in a cage it would take less space. I might have an extra cage in the garage. If it ever stops raining, I might try that out.

The pineapple tomatillo has one interesting trait that it shares with its brethren. Striped cucumber beetles love it. It makes a great trap crop for them. The beetles have been ignoring my cucumbers totally but I have found many beetles and egg masses on my tomatillo. When I see them they get dispatched. Sadly it has been raining so much the soap in my soapy water has diluted too much and I need to refill before these little monsters escape.

They seem to flower from every branching node and their little husks are slowly being filled with fruit. The best way to pick them is to wait for them to fall to the ground. Then they are ripe. If they are anything like the real tomatillo they will keep for months in their husk as long as the husk doesn't mold. It will dry out but the little tomatillo will be fine. Though I've been ignoring them in the past, I'm starting to see more husks forming and am anticipating my first taste.


  1. I've never had tomatillos. Looking forward to learning more about them.

    That's one colorful bug! Do you know what it is?

  2. Toni, it is a striped cucumber beetle.

  3. Hi Daphne, just re-read your post.. you had already stated that it was a striped cucumber beetle...

    You must be thinking... well... da! Sorry!

    I just kept looking at that photo. Interesting looking bug!

    I've never really paid any attention to bugs... except those darn grasshoppers which get so plentiful here... they could carry you away! LOL!

  4. I was tempted to grow Tomatillas this year. Your Pineapple variety sounds interesting too. Can't wait to hear how they taste! :)

  5. I've got three varieties of tomatillos, but no pruinosa. I look at the plants with visions of enchilada verde in my head, but so far they've just got those little internode flowers. I'm besotted with them.

  6. Toni, now worries. I do things like that too. I'm so glad we don't have grasshoppers. I remember them growing up and they could really tear a garden to shreds.

    perennialgardener, I'm really looking forward to them. I hope they do well.

    Stefaneener, part of me wishes I had planted one of those nice green tomatillos so I could make regular green salsa. Maybe next year.

  7. Its a Three-lined potato beetle