Growing and Saving the Seed Of Tomatillos

Tomatillos are also called “husk tomatoes” for the paper-like calyx or husk that encloses each fruit. They are grown much like tomatoes, although they are seldom staked. They also tend to grow more quickly from seed and to tolerate cold weather a bit better.





Native to Mexico and domesticated by the Aztecs around 800 B.C., tomatillos played an important part in the culture of the Maya and the Aztecs, and were more important than the tomato.


  • Culinary; essential for salsas and other Mexican sauces




  • Start seeds indoors 6-10 weeks before the last frost.
  • Using a heat mat helps to warm the soil and speed germination.  

    Seeds germinate in 7-14 days.

  • Seeds germinate at 75-95 F.

  • Sow seeds ¼ inch deep.




  • Grown much like a tomato, but it is a lighter feeder.
  • In order for the tomatillo flowers to set fruit, you must grow at least two tomatillo plants. 
  • Tomatillos like fun sun and rich, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic to neutral.
  • They are moderately drought tolerant but do best with an inch or so of water a week. 
  • Like tomatoes, tomatillos should be planted deeply, as they produce roots all along the stems.
  • Set plants about three feet apart, giving them plenty of room to spread out. They will grow to be 3 to 4 feet tall.
  • Plants should begin producing fruit in about 75 to 100 days. They are incredibly prolific and fruit nonstop until killed by frost.




  • Flea beetles are a common tomatillo pest. Trap plants, such as bok choy, horse nettle and datura will take on a good bit of the flea beetle damage for you, but be sure to manage their seeds carefully. Some people also use sticky traps. 




  • Fermentation is not necessary for saving seeds. 
  • Pick the fruit and allow it to ripen for a week or longer. Remove the husks and choose the ripest ones to save for seed. 

  • Place the fruit in a blender or food processor and just enough water to cover them. When totally blended, empty the contents into a large bowl. Add enough water to double the mixture, stir vigorously and allow the good seeds to settle to the bottom. Gently pour off the water and debris. Add more water and repeat the process until only clean seeds and water remain.

  • Pour through a strainer, making sure that the holes are small enough to capture the seeds. Remove as much moisture as possible from the bottom of the strainer and place the seeds in a glass bowl or container to dry.

  • Store when completely dried in a cool, dark, dry place. They should remain viable for three years.