Friday, November 5, 2010

Too Many Tomatillos?

Just a few of the many.
November may seem an odd month to be buried in tomatillos. Normally November is more likely to see us buried in snow than garden fresh produce. Nevertheless, we've got tomatillos. This state is a testament to the fabulous hoophouse. We in the north do appreciate season extension.

Our hoophouse is a little wonky, we bought it used and discovered (through some serious trial and error on our part) that it is not sturdy enough to withstand the winter wind and snow of Michigan's Upper Peninsula with the plastic on. Whoops. But we put it back together and, as our end of the season harvest proves, it still works just fine, wonky or not.

Here you see hoophouse wonk and happy tomato plants.
A few days ago my wonderful husband performed one of his many annual hoophouse related tasks. He converted it from a tropical oasis growing structure into a temporary chicken and duck housing structure.

Basically that means he picked the last of the fruits, put all the plants into the compost pile, and blocked off the doors so the birds could spend a month in there eating up tasty tidbits (aka cleaning up and fertilizing for us) before the plastic is removed and they are put in their winter home. We are going to try a straw bale house for them this winter.

We love giant compost piles!
That's the west end of the hoophouse off in the distance (in the upper left corner).

The result of all his labor, other than the replenished compost pile, is a kitchen full of solanaceous goodies. When I say full, I mean very full. I mean we are in serious danger of losing the toddler under an avalanche of vegetables full. How will I use everything up?

I have one grocery bag of eggplants. This is an awesome quantity of eggplants considering we live five miles from the shore of Lake Superior. No worries there, I love eggplant and can easily use them up.


I also ended up with a box of red tomato stragglers (to be made into more sauce) and three bags of green tomatoes. I have finally perfected a fried green tomato recipe and will try valiantly to use them up through frying. When I am sick of fried green tomatoes, however unlikely that sounds, I will can the rest. I suppose I can consider it an opportunity to retry the blueberry green tomato relish, albeit without the blueberries. See my post on failed blueberry green tomato relish.

The pepper plants had four remaining banana peppers and one sweet pepper that we missed earlier in the season. Those were eaten and added to pickles almost as soon as they made it inside.

And now I must return to the topic of this post, tomatillos. So many tomatillos. I can't even tell you how many tomatillos because they are spilling out of every bag, box, and spare container that we could find in the kitchen. And we waited all season for these tomatillos. Seriously, we were out in the hoophouse every other day this summer pinching the papery husks, waiting to squeeze the plump yellowish green fruits within.

Tomatillo flowers are pretty,
but we wanted fruit!

A tomatillo husk, no fruit inside.

A few ripened in the hot months, but we had kind of given up on getting a sizable harvest. So it was a surprise when he pulled the plants and there they finally were. I don't know what took them so long, but after all of our anticipation I do not want them to go uneaten. These are good tomatillos. They taste like tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and pineapples all wrapped up in one unassuming package. So I have been finding uses.

First I pickled five pounds. Then I made soup. Then I gave away five pounds. I've located a few salsa verde recipes that will be utilized this weekend - hopefully that uses up another ten pounds. My husband has discovered that our daughter can get about ten minutes of entertainment and eating pleasure from one nice big tomatillo. But that leaves us with more. Lots more. And it's fall, which isn't really the time of year I want to eat salsa verde anyway.

What fall is is chili time. Hmm...tomatillo chili.

Here it is, with lentils. My new favorite thing to do with too many tomatillos.

Tomatillo Chili with Lentils and Chicken

Don't be put off by the long ingredient list. The first eight things (over half the list!) are there to build a spicy and earthy base upon which to make your chili. The other seven ingredients are there to make your chili saucy and chunky, just as it should be. It's really a very simple recipe.

Chili spices.
You can grind them in a spice grinder
if you don't have a mortar and pestle.

  • One Tablespoon Butter
  • One Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • One Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • One Teaspoon Coriander
  • Two Teaspoons Cumin
  • Three Cloves Garlic, minced
  • One Medium Onion, roughly chopped
  • Two Jalapeno Peppers, sliced in rounds
  • One Cup Green Lentils
  • Three Cups Chicken Stock
  • Two Carrots, sliced to make about one cup
  • Two Pounds Tomatillos, husked and quartered
  • 1/2 Pound Tomatoes, chopped into one inch pieces
  • Two Cups Roasted Chicken Meat, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Milk

The first eight ingredients well on their way to becoming chili.

  1. Melt butter and oil over medium heat in a large heavy bottomed pot.
  2. Grind the cumin, coriander, and salt together.
  3. When the butter is foaming, add the ground spices and stir for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the garlic, onion, and jalapeno.
  5. Stir frequently until the onion is just soft and translucent.
  6. Stir in the lentils, making sure they are coated with fat and spices.
  7. Add the carrots and chicken stock.
  8. Cover, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  9. Stir in the tomatillos, tomatoes, and chicken meat. It may look like there isn't quite enough liquid. Don't worry, the tomatillos will release a lot.
  10. Return the pot to a simmer and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, or until the lentils are as tender as you like.
  11. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the milk.
  12. Serve immediately or store and reheat. It is even better after it has sat a day.

We were eating greens too so I used a few as garnish.
The traditional cheese and oyster crackers also work nicely.


  1. wow thanks to you I know what to do with some of my tomatillos. Can'wait to make the chili.
    Colorado girl

  2. I am making it right now. Half way done, and the taste is amazing! Thank you for posting this recipe. I have an overabundance of tomatillos and tomatoes