The tomatillo, 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. Tomatillos originated in Mexico and were cultivated in the pre-Columbian era.
Husk tomatoes have light-brown, papery husks (calyxes) that enlarge and cover the maturing fruits. The 2 most common cultivated species are the ground cherry and the tomatillo. Both have been cultivated in Central and South America for centuries, before even tomatoes. Ground cherries are so named because the cherry-sized fruits are borne near the ground. The leaves of ground cherries are hairy or fuzzy and the plants grow 1-2 ft. tall with lateral spreading growth. Tomatillos are larger-fruited, typically 1-3 in. diameter, and the plants grow 2-5 ft. tall with smooth leaves. Some varieties may grow 8 ft. or more with a ground-hugging growth habit. The Spanish name tomatillo is derived from the Indian name “tomatl.”