purple tomatillos growing on vine
(Image credit: patchouli_de_nuit / Getty Images)

A lot of different opinions surround tomatillos. Those who've never tried them think they're just weirdo tomatoes. Those who have tried them know they're so much more. Those who cook Mexican and Guatemalan cuisine find them indispensable. And the few people who grow purple tomatillos have struck gold. Let's learn more about these interesting heirloom tomatillo plants.

History of Purple Tomatillo Plants

Tomatillos are an ancient food native to Central America. Their first recorded cultivation by the Aztecs was in 800 B.C. In the 1980s, tomatillos became a headliner in Mexican agriculture, and Mexico found itself exporting 80% of its tomatillo crop to the United States, which began importing them in earnest. Purple tomatillo history is equally ancient and tied strongly to Mexico. It is quite rare in the U.S., still, but in Mexico it grows in the wild as a weed, sneaking into and taking over corn fields.

Growing a Tomatillo Purple Heirloom Plant

The tomatillo is an essential part of Mexican and Guatemalan cooking. If you have a tomatillo plant, chances are good that you're planning on making salsa. Purple tomatillo plants are a little different from their green siblings, though. The fruits are much sweeter, and delicious eaten straight off the vine. They do make for a fantastic salsa, too, giving it a sweet balance and a splash of unconventional purple color!

\Growing purple tomatillo is essentially the same as growing regular tomatillos. Begin the plants indoors well before the last frost, then set them out when the weather warms. Allow your fruits to ripen on the vine - they won't really begin to turn purple until the husk splits open and they're exposed to the sun. If you want, you can pick them when still greenish and remove the husk - the purple color will spread (and the fruit will sweeten) on your kitchen counter.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.