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Tomatillos? What can you tell me????

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Post  milaneyjane on 3/26/2011, 10:36 pm

I started some from seed today--12 actually. I have never even eaten one that I can remember, LOL! But we love salsa and Mexican food and after canning several kinds of salsas last year I wanted to try something new for this year. What am I in for as regards to growing them? We are in zone 4. If need be, I can plant them outside the box if they are crazy growers. The seed packet didn't tell me much of anything. How many plants do I need without going overboard?
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Post  westie42 on 3/26/2011, 10:54 pm

I have grown a few here in northeast Iowa zone 4 with fairly good results but my ripe harvest is near the end of the growing season. They take up quite a lot of space because they are bushy and overhang my short cages quite a lot. In the vertical chapter Mel has us seriously trimming tomatoes and squash but not sure how that mite work out on these plants. If someone else can't help you out better then I would consider growing them in an external container or just in the ground until you can see the results.
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Post  Megan on 3/26/2011, 11:12 pm

They can get big. I did not get a good harvest last year but I think I started them too late. They seem to like heat. I grew three; one set up in a beautiful, almost geometric growth habit, while the other two kinda draggled everywhere as they were fighting off being overcome by a larger adjacent plant. (Probably another reason why the poor harvest.)

I ended up buying green tomatillos from the supermarket and canned several batches of salsa from them, and honestly I think I prefer tomatillo salsa to tomato salsa. So, this year I am expanding my tomatillo growing area and trying again. Last year I did the purples (they are smaller fruit size and sweeter than the greens), this year I want to try both purple and green, to compare them.

I staked mine, they would have been wobbly without.
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Post  elliephant on 3/27/2011, 12:04 pm

I'm growing them for the first time this year, so I don't have much experience to offer, but I sure agree about it being a bit difficult to find good info out there. Mine have their first blossoms right now, so I'll be able to give you a bit of a heads up as they grow. I'm growing the green and have 3 along a trellis and 1 in a pot.
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Post  milaneyjane on 3/27/2011, 1:46 pm

I read on a few sites that in MN even though it is an annual, they are quite good at reseeding if planted in the garden. One woman said she even found them growing in her flower garden which has me thinking birds must love them. Laughing I think that I may plant mine outside the box this year and see if they will reseed. They also said that if left "wild" they easily grow across the ground or you can try trellising. I am definately going to plan on trellising. It would help to actually see a plant first hand, KWIM?
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Post  westie42 on 3/27/2011, 2:44 pm

From stray fallen fruit they will reseed profusely. The problem with waiting for volunteers is you may be too far north for a valid crop. Down here in Iowa they are very borderline if you want a reseed crop. You mite pick up some late fallen fruit for seed harvest and start your plants inside about the same as tomato starting works for me.
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Post  westie42 on 3/27/2011, 3:00 pm

Let me add that my started tomatillo plants seemed to get leggy quite easily and never did real well at rewarding my effort. Since they are a hot weather lover from Mexico etc. I think it is better for me to just buy a couple from Bonnies or whoever services your area stors with plants. Since they take up a lot of garden space probably a footprint like a healthy zuchinni grown traditionally a real well started plant seems best in the north. With volunteers coming up later it is very touch and go for getting a decent harvest. Thats my personal experience in zone 4 North East Iowa. But they do have lots of tasty uses.
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Post  Megan on 3/27/2011, 3:08 pm

Thank you, that is great info. Maybe we should start a tomatillo eats thread in the recipes section? All I know to do is make salsa with them! Laughing

I got my starts from DeBaggio's last year, and I got them late in the season. Bad me; there were maybe only a dozen plants left on the shelf and I took 6, 3 for me and 3 for someone else. They were quite leggy. I was afraid they would die. Mine did poorly, the ones I got for someone else did much better. The one plant I had that seemed to hold itself up was probably 3 feet around. I had a lot of fruit fall to the ground and was hoping for volunteers, good to know I should not count on that, so thank you for the heads-up.
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Post  milaneyjane on 3/27/2011, 5:31 pm

Thanks Westie. I think I will put them outside the box and not plan on any volunteers next year. I can't wait to get my hands on them. I found tons of great easy recipes online last night. I might have to plant a few extras if I can find the space just to make sure I have enough.

Megan---did you trellis or just let if go crazy?
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Post  Megan on 3/27/2011, 7:31 pm

Milaneyjane--I staked them. I had a cage around one, I think. The other two were eaten bodily by my rampicante. They never got big enough to trellis... but I've heard they can do so.

Oh! One other tidbit I did learn last year: Tomatillos need at least another plant nearby to be pollinated properly. You can't plant just one and expect fruit. Someone told me to do three and that's what I did.
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