Tuesday, September 11, 2012

KAT'S COOKING KORNER: From the Garden

Along with the end of summer, back-to-school beginnings and a return to routine, I have fit in one of my favourite pastimes at present. With Farmer's Markets choke-a-block full of fresh produce and my gardens exploding with tasty new tidbits to try, I have pulled out my canner again. I already have dill pickles, sweet pickles, pickled onions, pickled beets and salsa lining my larder, as well as plenty of jars of jam set aside for school lunches. The new produce of choice this year comes from my Community Garden plot and I have to say, before starting to experiment with it, I was at a loss as to what to do with it. Are you familiar with this member of the nightshade family?


Give up? 

These green fruits, which are surrounded by a papery covering, are related to the Cape Gooseberry, but harken from much further afield. While I grew these in Southwestern Ontario, they originated in Mexico. These firm specimens are identified as Physalis Ixocarpa or Tomatillos

So with the handful of plants that we decided to plant on a whim, producing vast quantities of these small green lanterns, what was I to do with them? Check the internet for recipes, of course! While I suppose I could have asked you, my lovely readers, if you had a recipe or two, I strode into a Google search that turned up millions of recipes. Over 5 million to be exact, but I suspect the vast majority of them were for salsa. Great, but after making a batch of Salsa Verde, what else was I going to do with this sink full of a foreign vegetable? Keep searching, I guess!

Those green bits are tomatillos!
You know what I found? You can make lots of things with tomatillos. I made a few batches of Salsa Verde, the second of which has a nice bite to it compliments of the jalapeƱos and serrano peppers. I made a couple of batches of tomatillo jam, that is delicate and delicious. Just like a marmalade! I made a tomatillo sauce for a fish dish that I cooked up last week, which was to die for. I even added them into my tacos tonight, to fill out the ground turkey, since the kids aren't overly keen on the usual Mexican spices that are called for in traditional tacos. Added a tangy kick, as well as a hint more sauce. Yum! Wowee, what a find! Kid friendly and adult too!

The spices that went into tonight's tacos.
Note the Salsa Verde in this jar 
is already 1/2 gone!
And who knew these slightly lemony tomatoes would be so prolific? Not us! It would seem that when the thick stems hit the ground, they root and send off another shoot to produce more fruit. Bonus! Err, I think. Only last week, I was by our community plot and plucked a cloth grocery bag full of tomatillos. I knew with a certainty that I would be back sooner rather than later to gather more of these green globes, seeing as how there were still plenty of lanterns to be seen and the plant was still thriving. They don't seem to be anywhere near ready to quit! I have a bag full of them frozen and might have to dig up some new recipes to use up the last of the ones that are on my counter, before heading back for more from the garden. Not that I'm complaining though!

So if you have ever thought about trying out a new plant for your veggie garden, this one is worth a try. I'm not sure what made these plants so happy, whether it was the hot season we had, or the lack of attention, but I think that I'm hooked. In case you were wondering, you pick them when the papery coating splits. It will be dry and might even turn brown and peel off. The actual tomatillos have a slightly sticky coating, but are easily rinsed and chopped up. They have a fairly thick skin, but the inner seeds aren't near so wet and slippery as regular tomatoes. For the health conscious among us, they contain vitamin C, protein, carbohydrates and dietary fibre. All in a pretty package to boot. 

And what did my kids have to say? Dig in!

Open-Face Taco with Tomatillos

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