In the Kitchen Kids in the Kitchen Lunch

What’s a Tomatillo? Mini Unit Study

Have you ever thought about studying a new food with your children? It’s a great time to choose a new fruit or vegetable to learn about with your children! Not only could it be a fun way to keep learning over the summer, but it could also be a way to introduce a new food to your children and get them interested enough that they just might try it (and like it!).

This is a fun mini unit study on tomatillos!

With this recipe, I learned how to use a tomatillo. The more I garden, the more I learn about different foods and how much flavor they possess as compared to their store-bought counterparts. If you’re not into gardening with your children, though, you might consider a food box from a local food co-op. In contrast to the typical supermarket, food boxes from local co-ops usually provide locally grown foods, and they often offer a great variety of foods–some of which may be brand new to you.

Another way to discover new foods and start introducing them to your children is by reading food magazines! You may be able to find some new foods you’d like to try, and you’ll have the advantage of already having on hand a few recipes starring that ingredient.

What’s a Tomatillo?

Tomatillos (physalis philadelphica) are similar to tomatoes and are in the nightshade family.  However, they are green when ripe. They can also be purple or have some purple coloring and have a sort of husk covering. They are sometimes even called called Mexican tomatoes because they are used in sauces and salsas, but they have more of a citrus flavor. Their bright color and citrus flavor make them quite different than tomatoes for cooking.

Things to Discover

If you’d like to do a sort of mini unit study with your children, here are a few question you may want to research. (If it will turn your children off to call it a unit study, then don’t! Just ask them if they’d like to discover this new food with you. Then let them help decide which topics and information to pursue.)

  1. Find out where this food originated and how it got to the United States.
  2. Look up nutrition information for this food. Create your own nutrition label.
  3. How do you cook this food? Or is it eaten raw?
  4. Look up a recipe or two that include this as an ingredient. Or create your own recipe if you like!
  5. Based on nutrition information, is this a healthy food? Why or why not? What nutrients does this food contain, and how could these nutrients benefit your body?
  6. If you can find the information, research to find out what kinds of dishes were made from this food in the past and how that has changed. What kinds of dishes are typically made from it now?
  7. Or research how this food is used in different areas of the country or the world.
  8. How expensive (or inexpensive) is this food? Consider researching to see how much it costs in different areas of the country. Then discuss why it might be more or less expensive in different areas.
  9. Is there a place nearby where you can see this food being grown? If so, consider planning a field trip!
  10. Consider creating a report or even a video with the information you’ve discovered. Show it to family or friends, and then eat a dish or two made with the food you’ve been studying!

Fresh Tomato and Black Bean Salad

What's a Tomatillo

My family really enjoyed the fresh tomato and black bean salsa I made for them. Really it’s made more like a pico de gallo than an actual salsa. The use of the tomatillos along with the lime juice and cilantro really gives this recipe extra flavor!

Ingredients: 

3 tomatoes
2 tomatillos
2 sweet pepper varieties (such as red and green bell peppers and/or banana peppers)
1 onion (or one bunch of green onions)
½ jalapeno pepper, fresh (optional)
1 can of black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can of black olives sliced
1 clove minced garlic
⅓ cup packed fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp. grapeseed oil (or salad oil)
1 tbsp. lime (or lemon) juice
salt and pepper to taste
tortilla chips (for serving)

Instructions:
This easy recipe mostly just requires chopping. First, chop the tomatoes, tomatillos, sweet peppers, onion, and (optional) jalapeno. Place those ingredients in your mixing bowl. Then add your can of black beans (rinsed and drained) and sliced black olives to the bowl and mix well. Next, finely mince or chop your garlic and cilantro and place in a smaller bowl. Add the oil and lime (or lemon) juice. Mix well and pour over the tomato/tomatillo mixture. Mix again, and it’s ready! Serve with tortilla chips.

Fresh Tomato and Black Bean Salad
 
Ingredients
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 tomatillos
  • 2 sweet pepper varieties (such as red and green bell peppers and/or banana peppers)
  • 1 onion (or one bunch of green onions)
  • ½ jalapeno pepper, fresh (optional)
  • 1 can of black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 can of black olives sliced
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • ⅓ cup packed fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil (or salad oil)
  • 1 tbsp. lime (or lemon) juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • tortilla chips (for serving)
Instructions
  1. This easy recipe mostly just requires chopping. First, chop the tomatoes, tomatillos, sweet peppers, onion, and (optional) jalapeno. Place those ingredients in your mixing bowl.
  2. Then add your can of black beans (rinsed and drained) and sliced black olives to the bowl and mix well.
  3. Next, finely mince or chop your garlic and cilantro and place in a smaller bowl. Add the oil and lime (or lemon) juice. Mix well and pour over the tomato/tomatillo mixture. Mix again, and it's ready! Serve with tortilla chips.

 

About the author

Stephanie Harrington

Stephanie was a military spouse for 20 years and has homeschooled for more than 17 years. She and her husband of 25 years retired from the military and settled in their native state of Iowa where they continue to homeschool their youngest child. Her homeschool style is eclectic with Charlotte Mason and classical influences. She continues to encourage and support homeschoolers through her writings and curriculum development.
When she isn't teaching or writing she enjoys sightseeing, gardening, and cooking.

About the author

Wendy

Wendy is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms. She married her high school sweetheart, Scott, over 27 years ago, and they live in the South with their three children. Hannah, age 23, has autism and was the first homeschool graduate in the family. Noah, age 21, was the second homeschool graduate. Mary Grace, age 15, is the remaining homeschool student. Wendy loves working out and teaching Training for Warriors classes at her local gym. She also enjoys learning along with her family, educational travel, reading, and writing, and she attempts to grow an herb garden every summer with limited success.

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