By Benjamin Daniells
Related to the tomato fruit yet definitely more of a savoury veg. Commonly used in salsa verde, we have instead elevated them from garden to glass status. After we’ve harvested the ripe ones, they head to the kitchen to be juiced before ending up in a mighty cocktail.
Tomatillos, also known as the Mexican Husk Tomatoes, have a real personality to them. They grow with a desire to be eaten and nothing stands in their way. Naturally for such dedicated hustlers, tomatillos couldn’t care less about water or blight or shade or heat, they take what they get and come out on top every time.
We get the seeds started in a propagator early in the year as the one thing they do require is a cosy start to life. From there though they grow and grow until they hit around 75cm tall, sometimes a few taller ones will max out at a metre.
Once on their way, tomatillos are more cold tolerant than might be expected and actually grow really well in our Northern location. The fruits grow wrapped in papery husks – their own ‘Chinese lanterns’. By September they are ready to be eaten and continue producing right through to the end of October and even November as we have discovered this year.
When the capes begin to split they are ready to be picked. They’ll still be green and firm, yet depending on the variety some will start to blush purple. If they are left to ripen fully, the skin sometimes cracks, but with little effect beyond the superficial. Even after harvest they stay strong and can be stored for ages.
In fact, unlike tomatoes, tomatillos are so tough they prefer to be outside and actually set more fruit in the garden than in the tunnel, even up here on the edge of the North York Moors. Pretty cool really, since they hail from Central America.
You get the impression that some feel the need to show off and occasionally, we catch a few rogues that are so proud of their heritage they forgo the cloak to go full sombrero.
Seamus has created a wonderfully seasonal soft drink, which, with the addition of tequila is transformed into something sublime .
‘The Sprightly Goblin’
Named by Tommy, declaring it’s green colour and taste to be reminiscent of Sprite!
Mexican Husk Tomatoes, Mexican Marigold and Tequila all coming together at The Black Swan. A new cocktail with serious terroir!
Follow Ben over on Instagram @theblackswangarden to see what else he is growing and foraging here at The Black Swan at Oldstead.
Follow Seb and Seamus on Instagram too @drinksattheblackswan_oldstead to see the experiments that lead to the creations on the drinks list here at The Black Swan Oldstead.