wild tomatillos, groundcherries or poisonous nightshades?

tomatillo flower tomatillo patch

There are all sorts of plants growing wild in the grassy paths of our 50 year old community gardens. One of these looks like little wild tomatillos.

Soon after I first got my plot last year, I dug up a few of these and added them to a corner bed. They reseeded themselves and I have twice as many this year. They get little yellow flowers and small husked green fruits. Like cherry tomatoes – Cherry tomatillos?

This year I have many fruits sizing up. I was wondering if I should look for a recipe for tomatillo salsa. But it was suggested that these are probably groundcherries, a sweet relative of tomatoes, tomatillos, and poisonous nightshades that are better suited for pies. I think next year I may look for some real tomatillo seeds.

(PS. How about those nails! This photos is from Wednesday. I got them really clean today and dressed in white jeans and went up to visit my parents. Well, we decided to dig a few potatoes just to check on them. So much for the clean nails and jeans. I give up!)

15 Comments. Leave new

  • At least you have nails! I bite mine off…

    I'll be watching for your fish taco and tomatillo salsa recipes…sounds delish!

  • Ummmm…are you SURE those are not wild poisonous nightshades?

  • I have cultivated several tomtatillo plants on my patch this year, they are doing really well. Interesting what you say about the wild forms, I have volunteer tomatillos at other places on my patch. I think it must be from seeds in my compost heap last year, they are really keen to grow even without my attentions.

  • Yea, I smiled when I saw your nails. I can totally relate. 🙂

  • Our tomatillos have self-seeded the past three years so we haven't needed to buy any more. They are fantastic plants.

    My favorite recipe for them is a green burrito sauce – for three minutes boil a hand full of tomatillos with half of a minced onion, a jalapeno, three lettuce leaves, large pinch of salt, and just enough water to cover. Puree with a stick blender or food processor then pour over your favorite burrito.

    Actually – might have some for lunch now.

  • Your wild tomatillos look like the groundcherries I have growing in my garden. Some people around here (Manitoba) call them sand cherries.

    The fruit is like a small yellow cherry tomato – ripe when the husk goes papery and falls off onto the ground. They are too sweet to use as a vegetable. I make them into pie, and I know people who make them into jam. They have a tart pineapple flavour with just a hint of tomato. They self-seed very readily as you have noticed.

    If you have enough harvest to want to do something with them, try searching groundcherry online. They keep fairly well inside their husks so you can save them until you have enough for a pie. Once you husk them they start to deteriorate faster.

  • What a great blog you have here. I had no idea tomatillos grew wild around here! And Skippy is adorable.

  • My nails look like that all the time during gardening season so I can totally relate. It's the sign of a true gardener. – Jackie

  • Another version of tomatillo salsa similar to what Graema described calls for roasting instead of boiling. You can put the tomatillos and pepper in a foil boat on the grill, or in a cast iron pan on the stove top, or in a baking dish in the oven. The roasting adds another dimension that is slightly smokey! Also, cilantro would be an alternative to lettuce. I can eat this by the spoonful!

  • Very cool. I'm actually growing tomatillos for the first time in my Fall garden this year. I actually just transplanted them into peat pots. I'm kinda excited.

  • Looks like these are ground cherries (or poisonous night shades!) I think I'll get real tomatillo seeds someday instead of eating these.

    (I also edited the post.)

  • They look like Cape Gooseberries to me! Grown a lot in South Africa and I believe in South America too! I have them growing in my greenhouse.

  • Yep, they are ground cherries. Also known as pineapple tomatillos. Also known as cossack pineapple tomatillos. And they are DELICIOUS. They are best if they are allowed to ripen for a day or two after they fall to the ground–in fact, when the papery husk has all but work away to a netlike covering, that is when they are at their sweetest. They have a complex sweet/savory flavor, with a "finish" that's different from the first impression. Love them!!! I grow 1-2 plants every year and they get to be around 3 ft tall and 4 ft around… they need some support as they produce prolifically! When they seed themselves I pot the plants and give them as gifts to friends who rave about the flavor and the productivity of the plant. Excellent in salads and in stir frys of all kinds.

  • Okay, so I'm really concerned if I should eat these or not… maybe I'm not understanding what a poisonous nightshade is… that sounds deadly to me….. I researched it.. and not getting much of anywhere…. so could use some clarifying affirmation about whether to eat or not to eat… is it safe?? 😉

    However…. it sure seems like it's a go… but please let me know! 😉

    Thanks, Katie Beth

  • If you have any questions about whether they are safe – DON'T eat them. I never have, so I don't know.


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