Tomatillos - Why we love them

Tomatillos - Why we love them

Oct 15, 2019Alejandro Lopez

We have a deep love affair with tomatillos. They are in fact a signature ingredient in our award-winning Bloody Mary mixers. We believe it is what gives our mixers an edge.

Tomatillos are actually an entirely separate plant from the tomato, and there are marked differences between the two not just in appearance but also in the flavor profile. We use tomatillos to make our own chipotle tomatillo sauce, a peppery and tangy hot sauce that balances extremely well with our tomato juice. Tart and citrusy like the zing of lime, tomatillos are unique in that they bring acidity without the overt sweetness of other acidic fruits like pineapple or kiwi. Tomatillos’ flavor profile, tart, tangy and a little herbaceous with a minimal amount of sugar, provides a beautiful balance to savory, indulgent, fatty foods—like all of our brunch favorites.

The secrets to their complex, delicious flavor are tied inextricably to their history, our understanding and appreciation of which is evolving even to this day. Even the history of tomatillos is captivating, and it provides another reason to embrace and appreciate them.

Tomatillos on a kitchen table
Among fruits and vegetables that we eat today, tomatillos are an ancient delicacy. They originated in the vibrant pre-European civilizations of Mesoamerica: the Maya and Aztec. While the earlier Mayans tended to be nomadic hunters, the dominant Aztec empire advanced farming practices. This led to the introduction of chili peppers, honey, salt, and chocolate into sauces and other delicacies. Historians believe that the Aztecs domesticated the tomatillo for culinary use around in the 1300s; the Nahuatl (Aztec) word for tomatillo was milomate.

It’s thanks to the Spanish conquistadors that, in English, tomato and tomatillo have such similar names. The colonists shortened both miltomate and xitomatl (the Aztec word for tomato) to tomate when they brought “New World” plants back to Europe with them starting in the 1500s. The rest is history.

“Husk tomatoes” or tomatillos—in the form that you find them today—have been a staple of Mexican and broader Central-South American cuisine for hundreds and hundreds of years, perhaps even longer. From this vast history, we have inherited a fruit whose mouthwatering flavor has stood the test of time. We saw it as our duty to continue the tradition of transforming the fruit into edible delights, and we took a different path than anyone before us. We incorporated the tomatillo’s lively flavor into a Bloody Mary mixer that cocktail lovers can use in their homes. And we drew inspiration from the fruit itself into our packaging: the veiny, papery husk of the plump green fruit is represented on every Toma label.

Toma Bloody Mary Bottle with Tomatillo Label Design

Toma maximizes tomatillos’ ability to pair beautifully with brunch food. And while the internet will offer up a handful of tomatillo-based “Green Bloody Mary” recipes, Alejandro’s (our founder) vision did not abandon tomatoes entirely. The unique and brunch-ready flavor of Toma blends the sweet, richness of the tomato with the tart, citrus notes of the tomatillo, creating a combination of flavors that balance the brunch dishes we love to indulge in. A Toma Bloody Mary still resembles a classic, just far more robust and complex.

From cocktails to sauces to soups and breakfast to dinner, there are tons of delicious ways to incorporate tomatillos into your diet. Here are a few of our favorite recipes.

The Toma Bloody Mary

Grab two cocktail glasses. Pour 8 ounces of Toma Original into a shaker with ice. Add 3 ounces of vodka and give it a light shake to blend the ingredients. Pour contents into the two cocktail glasses. Garnish with a lemon or lime wedge and a celery stalk.

Tomatillo + Tomato Salsa
Credit: Epicurious

1 ½ pounds fresh tomatillos or 3 (11-ounce) cans of tomatillos
5 fresh serrano chiles
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
½ cup fresh cilantro
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons coarse salt

Preheat broiler.

If using fresh tomatillos, remove husks and rinse under warm water to remove stickiness. If using canned tomatillos, drain and measure out 2 cups. Broil chiles, garlic, and fresh tomatillos (do not broil canned) on the rack of a broiler pan 1 to 2 inches from heat turning once, until tomatillos are softened and slightly charred, about 7 minutes.

Peel garlic and pull off tops of chiles. Purée all ingredients in a blender.

Roasted Tomatillo Chicken Soup
Credit: Kitchen Confidante

4 medium tomatillos, peeled and clean
1 jalapeño (optional)
1/2 cup cilantro, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, white parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
4 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon cumin
1 skinless boneless chicken breast
creme fraiche for serving

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roast the tomatillos (and jalapeño if desired) for about 30 minutes, flipping halfway. The peppers will be done when browned and soft to the touch. Let it cool for a few minutes, then place in a food processor with the cilantro and puree. If using the jalapeño, remove and discard seeds before pureeing. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and cook the leeks, until softened. Add the garlic and season lightly with salt. Add the chicken stock, cumin, and chicken, and bring to a boil. Let it cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and shred. Set aside.

Working in batches, put tomatillo puree and soup into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return to the soup pot, bring to a boil and simmer. Adjust seasoning as necessary and put the chicken back into the pot and heat through.

Serve hot with a dollop of creme fraiche, additional cilantro garnish, and some crusty warm bread or tortilla strips.

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