09/09/2014 10:22 BST | Updated 05/11/2014 05:59 GMT

How the Americans Won the War (On Tomatillos)

Say what you like about social media, it can be a great way of getting back in touch with old friends and making new ones.

Take my US friend Karen. We've never met - she's a friend of a friend - but I know if I ever turned up in Texas she'd make me welcome and we'd get on like a house on fire. The same goes for her mum, Sheila, who lives in California.

Karen and I talk online about everything from football (she loves it, I loathe it) to felines (inevitably, this is social media after all) and food. I love the fact that Karen reads my recipes down the 'phone to her mum and they both give me feedback.

2014-09-01-Sheila.jpgAnd Sheila - born in Britain but a long-time US resident and a keen cook - came to my rescue the other day when I was pleading for ideas for what to do with my enormous crop of tomatillos, which are currently trying to force their way out of the greenhouse roof.

These Mexican fruits are a bit like lemony green tomatoes but come clad in a papery skin like Cape gooseberries and my goodness, they are prolific.

Salsa recipes abound - I'd already made a great salsa with them devised by another American friend, Matthew Locricchio - but tomatillos are as rare as hen's teeth in the UK and even online I couldn't find any other interesting ideas. With a mounting heap of tomatillos and no idea what to do with them, I was feeling a bit embattled. Then the Americans entered the war.

Sheila very kindly gave me a whole rake of recipes and Karen (who must now have RSI from all the typing) emailed them to me. Thank you, ladies. First off, I chose to make Sheila's pickled tomatillos, though there's also a very intriguing-looking sorbet I'm itching to try.

Sheila's Pickled Tomatillos

2014-09-01-DSCN8282.JPGIf you don't have access to tomatillos you can substitute green tomatoes.


500-600g (2 1/4 lb) tomatillos

Around 800 ml (about 3 cups) vinegar (I used cider vinegar with a good slosh of sherry vinegar)

2 onions, peeled and chopped

1 tbsp black peppercorns

1 tbsp sugar

1 tspn of salt

1 sprig each of tarrragon and fennel


Sterilise and cool your jar(s). Remove the papery husks from the tomatillos and rinse them under lukewarm water to remove the sticky residue, then drain.


Bring a large pan of water to the boil and blanch the tomatillos for one minute. Drain and place in a large bowl.

Bring the vinegar to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.


Mix the onion and peppercorns with the tomatillos and transfer to the jars. Add the sugar. Pour over the hot vinegar, cover and set aside for 24 hours to marinate.

Next day, add the mustard, salt, tarragon and fennel to the jars, poking the herbs down the side of the jar. Seal, shake gently to mix and put in a cool dark place for a couple of months before eating.