January 14, 2010 11:52 AM

Although they are widely available in the US, I don't think I have met more than a couple people here who use fresh tomatillos in their cooking. It may be partly because people are not familiar with them or how to cook them, but.... they are not an appealing ingredient as far as looks go with the first impression! But let me tell you why you should definitely give them a try (continue for more information and photo).

They are from the tomato family, but are much firmer than red tomatoes and less juicy. They are green and covered with a papery husk, that tends to be speckled with dirt and sometimes randomly torn or stuck to the flesh of the tomatillo. This is because the skin of the tomatillo is a bit sticky and waxy. They also have a somewhat humid aroma, from the moisture caught in between the skin and the husk along their travels and storage time.

However, don't let yourself be deceived by their cover and first appearance. Once you bring them home, peel the husk and rinse them off, you will see what a beautiful ingredient they are. They have a sensuous shape and a deep green shiny color. You will see even more beauty once you try their flavor and see all the things you can use them for.

In my opinon, they are one of the most unique ingredients in Mexican cooking. A bit tart, in a very peculiar way, they work wonderfully along spicy and sweet ingredients.

To buy them, don't be shy about touching them. You have to confirm they are firm, with a bright green color and not mushed, wrinkled or colorless, signs of being old and bitter. They should be fresh and you can tell by the husk which should be papery, regardless if it sticks to the tomatillo or not. So grab the tomatillo and peek inside the husk to see what you are getting before you put it in your basket!