Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Tomatillos, also known as green tomatoes or even shortened to ‘tomate,’ are native to Mexico and, unlike its look-alike tomatoes, is classified as a vegetable, not a fruit, because its nutritional profile is much different than that of regular tomatoes.
Historically tomatillos have been used to treat arthritis, joint and muscle conditions, which we now know is due to over 14 phytochemicals found in this vegetable.
What are phytochemicals? The word phyto in Greek means ‘plant,’ so it wouldn’t surprise you to know that phytochemicals are of plant origin. These chemicals assist in plant growth and act as a defense system to protect the plant against pathogens, predators or even other competitors.
Phytochemicals are becoming increasingly popular in the world of research due to the potential health effects that are still to be discovered from the 25,000 phytochemicals that are known today. You will find most phytochemicals concentrated in the colorful parts of plants such as fruits, nuts, legumes, grains, and vegetables like tomatillo.
In particular, Tomatillos contain a unique phytochemical called withanolide, which has extensive anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. Withanolides are naturally occurring plant chemicals that feature antioxidant properties and suppress oxidative stress caused by free radicals, which are harmful to the body and can cause damage and inflammation to the body cells.
In addition to the plant chemical withanolides, tomatillos also contain vitamin A and vitamin C, which collectively have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial functions, as well as promoting faster cell regeneration. For this reason, tomatillos have been found to be helpful with inflammatory conditions such as reducing pain and discomfort in joints, boosting the immune system, reducing sore throats and even cancer-protective effects!
Traditionally not only have the withanolides from tomatillos been used to treat health conditions, but have been used for over 3000 years in Ayurvedic medicine for reducing symptoms in conditions of inflammation mediated diseases such as arthritis, auto immune diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders. The benefits of withanoildes are mainly due to its anti-inflammatory, diuretic, analgesic, immune boosting and stress reducing effects.
When choosing the best tomatillos, you may find them in husks. If the husks are still green, they have not achieved their full ripeness. As the plant grows the husk will develop into a light brown color to indicate its ripeness and, in some cases, may fall off. So look for a light brown husk, or even husk free tomatillo, and ensure it has a bright green color and is firm in touch.
I am sharing with you this traditional Mexican family recipe from my mother-in-law, Elena, which is loved by the whole family!
Elena’s Green Salsa Recipe
12 Green Chili de Arbol
1 Large Garlic Clove
½ White Onion
1 Teaspoon chicken or vegetable stock
Cilantro to taste
Keep the vegetables whole and use a fry pan to dry roast the tomatillos, chilies and garlic, as to brown the sides, but be careful not to burn anything.
Place the roasted items into a blender and add in the dry chicken or vegetable stock, to a well-mixed liquid consistency.
Remove the salsa from the blender and top with chopped onion and cilantro.
Use this salsa to top your favorite chicken, fish or egg dish, or simply enjoy with fresh corn chips as a great dipping salsa!
Lonneke Botello Hernandez is a Clinical Nutritionist and Personal Trainer. With over ten years of clinical experience, she has helped countless people to enhance and improve their long term health and wellbeing, from weight loss to reducing disease and illness. If you would like to receive a personalized program to reach your health goals sooner, contact her via the Aslon Antiaging Clinic Facebook page or website. She welcomes you to visit her in Bucerias, Nayarit.