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Temporal range: Early Eocene to Recent, 52–0  Ma
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Physalis
P. philadelphica
Binomial name
Physalis philadelphica
Lam. (1786)

Physalis ixocarpaBrot.

Physalis ixocarpa - MHNT Physalis ixocarpa MHNT.BOT.2008.1.52.jpg
Physalis ixocarpaMHNT

The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa), also known as the Mexican husk tomato, is a plant of the nightshade family bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. [1] Tomatillos originated in Mexico and were cultivated in the pre-Columbian era. [2] A staple of Mexican cuisine, they are eaten raw and cooked in a variety of dishes, particularly salsa verde.



Purple tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa) Physalis ixocarpa.JPG
Purple tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa)
Green tomatillos (Physalis philadelphica) Tomatillo 01 cropped.jpg
Green tomatillos (Physalis philadelphica)

The wild tomatillo and related plants are found everywhere in the Americas except in the far north, with the highest diversity in Mexico. In 2017, scientists reported on their discovery and analysis of a fossil tomatillo found in the Patagonian region of Argentina, dated to 52 million years BP. The finding has pushed back the earliest appearance of the Solanaceae plant family of which the tomatillo is one genus. [3]

Tomatillos were domesticated in Mexico before the coming of Europeans, and played an important part in the culture of the Maya and the Aztecs, more important than the tomato. [4] The specific name philadelphica dates from the 18th century. [4]


The tomatillo (from Nahuatl, tomatl ) [4] is also known as husk tomato, [5] Mexican groundcherry, [6] large-flowered tomatillo, [7] or Mexican husk tomato. [1] Some of these names, however, can also refer to other species in the genus Physalis . [4] Other names are Mexican green tomato and miltomate.

In Spanish, it is called tomate de cáscara (husk tomato), tomate de fresadilla (little strawberry tomato), tomate milpero (field tomato), tomate verde (green tomato), tomatillo (Mexico; this term means "little tomato" elsewhere), miltomate (Mexico, Guatemala), farolito (little lantern), or simply tomate (in which case the tomato is called jitomate from Nahuatl xitomatl). [1]

The tomatillo genus name Physalis is from New Latin physalis, coined by Linnaeus from Ancient Greek φυσαλλίς (physallís, “bladder, wind instrument”), itself from φυσιόω (physióō, “to puff up, blow up”), φυσώ (physṓ).[ citation needed ]


Tomatillos are native to Central America and Mexico. [1] The plant is grown mostly in the Mexican states of Hidalgo and Morelos, and in the highlands of Guatemala [1] where it is known as miltomate. In the United States, tomatillos have been cultivated since 1863, with one dubbed "jamberry" in 1945 and others with the names "Mayan husk tomato" and "jumbo husk tomato". [4] [1] Further distribution occurred in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Florida. [1] By the middle of the 20th century, the plant was further exported to India, Australia, South Africa, and Kenya. [1]


There is limited information about tomatillo production, [8] even though tomatillo is distributed and grown worldwide as home-grown garden plant. Tomatillo is mainly cultivated on outdoor fields in Mexico and Guatemala on a large scale. Smaller crops are planted in many parts of the United States. [9] In Mexico tomatillos are planted within a wide range of altitudes. [8]

Soil and climate requirements

In general, tomatillo plants are tolerant to many different soil conditions. However, they do best in well-drained, sandy, fertile soil conditions with a pH between 5.5 and 7.3. [10] Tomatillo plants are cold sensitive. [11] They grow best at 25 to 32 °C. Below 16 °C, growth is very poor. [9] Tomatillo plants prefer full sun exposure and warm locations. [12]

Seedbed requirement and sowing

Transplanting is the most common practice to plant tomatillo plants. [9] Transplants are produced in greenhouses or in transplant beds. [13] Germination occurs at 20-27 °C. [12] Transplanting occurs 6 to 8 weeks after seeding and when risk of frost is past. Transplants that were produced indoors need to harden off in a warm, sunny place for a few days before being planted outside. [11] Direct outdoor seeding can only be done if no frost risk exists and soil temperature is higher than 15 °C. Direct outdoor seeding leads to shortening of the vegetation period. [11] Due to its branching growing pattern, a single plant requires enough growing space. Tomatillos are typically grown in rows 0.7 to 1.6 m apart. [9] Although tomatillo is a perennial plant, overwintering is hard, so it is normally cultivated as an annual plant. [12]

Fertilization and field management

Tomatillo plants can reach heights of 1.5 to 2 meters.[ citation needed ] Due to its rapid and branching growth it is recommended to stake them. Staking also facilitates later harvesting and prevents the fruit from touching the ground, which reduces damage to fruit and husk. [13] Staking can also reduce disease, as well as slug damages. [9] Fertilization is recommended at a moderate level. An application of 40 – 90 kg/ha of phosphorus is common. Depending on soil type and irrigation, other nutrients and fertilzers (N/ K) may be required. [9] For non commercial production, regular fertilization is recommended. Even though tomatillo plants becomes more drought tolerant the older they get, regular watering is required. [9] Tomatillo plants require 25–38 mm of water per week. [11] Water can either come from rainfall or irrigation. Irrigation can either be managed by drip, sprinkler, furrow or watering can. [9] Irrigation frequency is depending on weather and crop's growth stage from once or twice a week to daily during hot weather periods. [9] Weeds are a serious challenge in tomatillo production and especially important during the first few weeks. Plastic and organic mulches help to effectively control weeds. [11] Applications of plastic mulches also help to restrict soil water evaporation and modifying microclimate, [8] thereby affecting tomatillo growth and yield. [8]

Harvest and postharvest treatment

Tomatillos are harvested when the fruits fill the calyx. [8] This state is normally achieved 65 to 100 days after transplanting. [12] Fruit production continues for 1 to 2 months or until first frost. Harvesting occurs regularly, typically every day. Harvesting is done by hand. A single plant produces 60 to 200 fruits within a single growing season, with an average yield of about 9 tons per acre. [10] Tomatillos can be stored up to three weeks in a cold and humid environment. [9]


Tomatillos are a key ingredient in fresh and cooked Mexican and Central-American green sauces. The green color and tart flavor are the main culinary contributions of the fruit. Purple and red-ripening cultivars often have a slight sweetness, unlike the green- and yellow-ripening cultivars, so generally are used in jams and preserves. Like their close relatives, Cape gooseberries, tomatillos have a high pectin content. Another characteristic is they tend to have a varying degree of a sappy, sticky coating, mostly when used on the green side out of the husk.

Ripe tomatillos keep refrigerated for about two weeks. They keep even longer with the husks removed and the fruit refrigerated in sealed plastic bags. [14] They may also be frozen whole or sliced.

Tomatillo as food

The tomatillo can be harvested at different stages of its development. For salsa verde , it is harvested early, when the fruit is sour with a light flavor. For a sweeter taste, it can be picked later, when the fruit is seedier. [15] In this stage, it could be suitable as a tomato substitute. Tomatillos have diverse uses in stews, soups, salads, curries, stirfries, baking, cooking with meats, marmalade, and desserts. [1]

Tomatillos can also be dried to enhance the sweetness of the fruit in a way similar to dried cranberries, with a hint of tomato flavor. [16] The tomatillo flavor is used in fusion cuisines for blending flavors from Latin American dishes with those of Europe and North America. [17]



P. philadelphica grow up to 15 to 60 cm and have few hairs on the stem. The leaves have acute and irregularly separated dents on the side. [18] They are typically about one meter in height, and can either be compact and upright or prostrate with a wider, less dense canopy. The leaves are typically serrated and can either be smooth or pubescent.


The tomatillo is a member of the genus Physalis , erected by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck described the tomatillo under the name Physlis philadelphica in 1786. Other species such as P. aeuata and P. violacea were described later. The tomatillo is also often classified as P. ixocarpa BROT. [19] However, P. philadelphica is the most important species economically. [20] The nomenclature for Physalis changed since the 1950s. P. philadelphica was at one time classified as a variety of P. ixocarpa. Later, the classification of P. ixocarpa was revised under the species of P. philadelphica. Today, the name P. ixocarpa is commonly used for the domestic plant and P. philadelphica for the wild one.

Tomatillo plant with buds, pubescent stem and serrated leaves noticeable Tomatillo plant.jpg
Tomatillo plant with buds, pubescent stem and serrated leaves noticeable


Flowers come in several colors including white, light green, bright yellow, and sometimes purple. Flowers may or may not have purple spots toward the center of the corolla. The anthers are typically dark purple to pale blue. Tomatillo plants are highly self-incompatible, and two or more plants are needed for proper pollination. Thus, isolated tomatillo plants rarely set fruit. [21]


The tomatillo fruit is surrounded by an inedible, paper-like husk formed from the calyx. As the fruit matures, it fills the husk and can split it open by harvest. The husk turns brown, and the fruit can be several colors when ripe, including yellow, green, or even purple. The freshness and greenness of the husk are quality criteria.

Flower types:


There are several varieties of tomatillos, with differences in tastes, traits, and ripening colors. [1] [22] [23] Some cultivars include Amarylla, Gigante, Green Husk, Mexican, Pineapple, Purple de Milpa, Rio Grande Verde, and Yellow.


Self-incompatibility trait

Tomatillos carry self-incompatible traits. The plant, i.e. the fertile hermaphrodite, is not able to produce zygotes after self-pollination occurs. [24] This limits the ability to improve tomatillo production regarding the seed quality and the production of varieties.

The self-compatibility gene is situated in the chromosomes of the tomatillo and is not inherited through cytoplasm. Only heterozygous plants can be self-compatible as the trait is controlled by a dominant gene. [24] Tomatillo can thus produce seeds through self-pollination due to the involvement of self-compatibility traits but the germination viability is different throughout the produced seeds. This suggests that not only incompatible pollen is involved but also inviability at the seedling stage. [20]


Tomatillo is generally a very resistant crop, as long as its climatic requirements are met. However, as with all crops, mass production brings with it exposure to pests and diseases. As of 2017, two diseases affecting tomatillo have been documented, namely tomato yellow leaf curl virus and turnip mosaic virus. Symptoms of tomato yellow leaf curl virus, including chlorotic margins and interveinal yellowing, were found in several tomato and tomatillo crops in Mexico and Guatemala in 2006. [25] After laboratory tests, the virus was confirmed. Symptomatic plants were associated with the presence of whiteflies, which were likely the cause for this outbreak. [25]

Turnip mosaic virus was discovered in several tomatillo crops in California in 2011, rendering 2% of commercially grown tomatillo plants unmarketable, with severe stunting and leaf distortion. [26] The green peach aphid is a common pest in California, and since it readily transmits the turnip mosaic virus, this could be a threat to tomatillo production in California. [26]

See also

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Papaya Species of plant

The papaya, papaw, or pawpaw is the plant Carica papaya, one of the 22 accepted species in the genus Carica of the family Caricaceae. Its origin is in the tropics of the Americas, perhaps from Central America and southern Mexico.

Radish An edible root vegetable of the family Brassicaceae

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Avocado Species of flowering plant in the laurel family Lauraceae

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Raspberry Edible fruit

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<i>Passiflora edulis</i> Species of flowering plant in the passion flower family Passifloraceae

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Physalis is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), which grow in warm temperate and subtropical regions of the world. Most of the species, of which 75–90 may exist, are indigenous to the Americas. Cultivated species and weedy annuals have been introduced worldwide. A notable feature is the formation of a large, papery husk derived from the calyx, which partly or fully encloses the fruit. The fruit is small and yellow to orange, similar in size, shape, and structure to a small tomato.

Tamarillo Species of plant

The tamarillo is a small tree or shrub in the flowering plant family Solanaceae. It is best known as the species that bears the tamarillo, an egg-shaped edible fruit. It is also known as the tree tomato, tomate de árbol, tomate andino, tomate serrano, blood fruit, tomate de yuca, tomate de españa, sachatomate, berenjena and tamamoro in South America, and terong Belanda in Indonesia. They are popular globally, especially in Peru, Colombia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Rwanda, Australia, and the United States.

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<i>Pouteria caimito</i> Species of plant

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Vegetable Edible plant or part of a plant, involved in cooking (opposed to Q3314483)

Vegetables are parts of plants that are consumed by humans or other animals as food. The original meaning is still commonly used and is applied to plants collectively to refer to all edible plant matter, including the flowers, fruits, stems, leaves, roots, and seeds. The alternate definition of the term is applied somewhat arbitrarily, often by culinary and cultural tradition. It may exclude foods derived from some plants that are fruits, flowers, nuts, and cereal grains, but include savoury fruits such as tomatoes and courgettes, flowers such as broccoli, and seeds such as pulses.

Tomato Edible berry of the tomato plant, Solanum lycopersicum

The tomato is the edible berry of the plant Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant. The species originated in western South America and Central America. The Nahuatl word tomatl gave rise to the Spanish word tomate, from which the English word tomato derived. Its domestication and use as a cultivated food may have originated with the indigenous peoples of Mexico. The Aztecs used tomatoes in their cooking at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, and after the Spanish encountered the tomato for the first time after their contact with the Aztecs, they brought the plant to Europe. From there, the tomato was introduced to other parts of the European-colonized world during the 16th century.

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A pitaya or pitahaya is the fruit of several different cactus species indigenous to the Americas. Pitaya usually refers to fruit of the genus Stenocereus, while pitahaya or dragon fruit refers to fruit of the genus Selenicereus, both in the family Cactaceae. Dragon fruit is cultivated in Southeast Asia, India, United States, the Caribbean, Australia, Mesoamerica and throughout tropical and subtropical world regions.

<i>Physalis longifolia</i>

Physalis longifolia, known by the common names common groundcherry, longleaf groundcherry, and wild tomatillo, is a species of flowering plant in the nightshade family, Solanaceae. It is native to North America, where it is native to eastern Canada, much of the continental United States, and northern Mexico. It has also been noted as an introduced species in other regions, including parts of the United States outside its native range. In some areas, such as California, it is an occasional noxious weed.

<i>Physalis pubescens</i>

Physalis pubescens is a species of flowering plant in the nightshade family known by many common names, including husk tomato, low ground-cherry and hairy groundcherry in English, and muyaca and capulí in Spanish. It is native to the Americas, including the southern half of the United States, Mexico, Central and much of South America. It can be found elsewhere as an introduced species and sometimes a weed. It can grow in many types of habitat, including disturbed areas. This is an annual herb producing a glandular, densely hairy stem up to about 60 cm (24 in) in maximum height from a taproot. The oval or heart-shaped leaves are 3–9 cm (1.2–3.5 in) long and have smooth or toothed edges. The flowers blooming from the leaf axils are bell-shaped and about a centimeter long. They are yellow with five dark spots in the throats, and have five stamens tipped with blue anthers. The five-lobed calyx of sepals at the base of the flower enlarges as the fruit develops, becoming an inflated, ribbed, lanternlike structure 2–4 cm (0.79–1.57 in) long which contains the berry.

Celebrity tomato

The Celebrity tomato cultivar is a hybrid (biology) that produces long fruit-bearing stems holding 20 or more very plump, robust tomatoes. Fruits weigh approximately 8 oz., and are 4 inches across. Plants need caging or staking, and produce fruit throughout the growing season. The celebrity tomato is a cultivar of the species Solanum lycopersicum. It is a crossbreed of the common tomato that is widely used for various culinary purposes. This tomato is of great size and is known to be resistant to most tomato diseases such as Fusarium wilt, Verticillium wilt, Tobacco mosaic virus and Root-knot nematode due to its hybrid nature. Celebrity tomatoes are highly adaptive to harsh environments and can grow in a wide range of places including dry, humid and wet regions. They are resistant to cracking and splitting which usually occurs when there is an excess of water and sugar movement in the fruits. Therefore, causing the tomato skin to grow at a slower rate compared to the expansion of the fruit. They can survive in harsh uneven rainfall. However, they are highly susceptible to colder environments and are at a higher risk of dying in regions with short growing seasons. The plants can grow up to 5 feet in height with bright red medium-sized fruits. The plants are generally very thick and grow in clusters. The tomato fruits are mostly used in the making of various salsas, salads, juices and canned food.

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Physalis pruinosa is a plant in the genus Physalis in the nightshade family Solanaceae, often referred to as ground cherry or husk tomato. It is a native species in a range extending from northern Mexico through Central America. The plant has a low, spreading habit, and fruits develop in a papery husk, as is characteristic of the genus. While most parts of the plant are toxic to humans due to the presence of solanine and solanidine, the fruit becomes edible once it has ripened to yellow. The fruit's flavor is similar in some respects to that of a ripe tomatillo, but notably has a strong flavor of pineapple as well, a fact reflected in the name of a common commercial variety, "Cossack Pineapple".


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