Tag Archives: tomatillo

Natural Healing — Tomatillo

Photo credit: Stefan.lefnaer

Tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa or Physalis philadelphica) is also known as tomate fresadilla (tomate de fresadilla), tomate de cáscara, tomate milpero, miltomate (from the Nahuatl mjltomatl field tomato), farolito, and tomate verde or just tomate. In contrast, the term jitomate is used for red tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) from the word XĪTOMA-TL, while these small husked fruits’ name comes from the Nahuatl term TOMA-TL.

Although best known for adding the delicious sour taste to salsa verde, tomatillo has also been used medicinally at least since the time of the Aztecs. Traditionally, this fruit which can be found in yellow, orange, green, and purple, has been used for headaches, infections, fever, stomach ailments, and diabetes although there has been no scientific evidence supporting the plant’s hypoglycemic action

On the other hand, the calyx, leaf, fruit, and stem have antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, with the husk having the highest concentrations. Additionally, the sticky part of the calyx has anti-inflammatory properties. The fruit has been shown to aid in digestion and is high in antioxidants. Extracts have shown promise in inhibiting pancreatic tumor growth and cancer chemopreventive properties as well.

The toasted fruit is mashed with salt and applied externally for earaches, headaches, and sore throats. Sweetened juice is prescribed for sore throats. Boiling the husk with pericón (Tagetes lucida) is recommended to make a tea to ease a sore throat and hoarseness. 

Stomach ailments caused by bilis (excess rage believed to acculumate in the liver) are treated with an infusion made from nopal root (Opuntia ficus-indica) and the leaves from albahaca (Ocimum basilicum), tomatillo, estafiate (Artemisia ludoviciana), yerba buena (Mentha spicata), and orégano de monte (Lippia graveolens). Simmer the ingredients for 10 minutes. Strain. Drink one cup a day on an empty stomach for 9 days.

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Rainy Season Foraging

I’ve already written about how foraging is part of our lifestyle. (See Gleaning) Our animals are taken out of their corrals and allowed free foraging daily.  Recently this mass exodus has not just been limited to the goats, sheep, and horse, but also the chickens, ducks, and rabbits delightedly head out to the tall grass for vittles.

When the Earth provides such abundance, it really is a sin against nature not to harvest its bounty (See Tunas, Pitayas, and Cactus) both man and beast.  Of course, each season brings its own flavors.  This past month, we did some rainy season foraging.

Not edible!

Lots of rain mean lots of mushrooms.  This year was hardly a bumper crop, but we did get a meal or two out of the mushrooms.  I always let my husband harvest these as I’m still a little unsure of choosing the right ones.  Both types of mushrooms that grow in droves during the rainy season look like partially opened umbrellas.  The edible mushrooms are pink underneath.  The poisonous ones are brown or white underneath.

Then there is this plant that my husband called toritos (little bulls).  I’m pretty sure that’s not its name.  The interior of the seed pods before it hardens up is edible. It tastes, well, beany.  Once the pods harden, they darken to an almost black color and two pointy prongs pop out at the end.  My husband and his brothers used these mature seed pods as bulls in their play way back when.

Another edible plant is what my husband calls quesitos (little cheeses) because once peeled it resembles a cheese wheel.  These are bitter in taste.  I’ll pass.

This pretty flower turns into tiny metallic colored berries.  They sort of taste like blueberries.  Apparently, there are several varieties of this plant differentiated by the flower color but all giving the same sort of berry.  Anyone know the name of this plant?

Stopping on our nature hike to take a picture in Los Amoles, I found tomatillo growing wild at my feet.  Tomatillo is used in all sorts of savory Mexican dishes.  It has a tart or tangy flavor to it.

Not edible!

The fruit developing on this plant is not to be eaten, according to my husband, although it bears an uncanny resemblance to a squash.

Verdolaga (purslane) is found year-round.  Cooked up it has the consistency of spinach with a sort of tangy taste.  It’s often used in green salsa.  

This plant is called Chichi de burra (Donkey boobs).  The pods are edible and taste like figs.

The tubular petals from this flower (Klip Dagga) have nectar that can be sucked out making it a favorite of chuparosas (rose suckers otherwise known as hummingbirds) and mariposas (butterflies).  They grow in large bunches under the mesquite tree near our house.  It’s my favorite place to be at the tail end of the rainy season.

This is not an all inclusive list of wild edibles by any means.  Every year, I learn a little bit more about the flora and fauna that surround me.  Where else can I get a glimpse of a mountain lion, a roadrunner, and fox in one day?  Where else do butterflies of every imaginable color and size flutter in clouds?  Where else are daily humdrum activities stopped with the glimpse of a hummingbird? La Yacata remains the place to be for me!

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