Howe Farms cultivates new tastes with the tomato’s sister fruit

"A lot of people are afraid to try them, but their flavor is amazing."

Photo Credit: Brad M. Wolf

Howe Farms cultivates new tastes with the tomato’s sister fruit

Written by: Mark Loehrke
July 18, 2018


When Steve Howe and his wife Jenn opened Howe Farms in 2013, they weren’t exactly tilling new ground—they were simply carrying on a dedication to farming that had been passed down in both of their families for generations stretching back to 1851. In building and growing the business in Crown Point today, the couple hopes to teach their own young kids the importance of farming as not only an occupation, but also as a way of connecting with the community around them in a meaningful way.

“I’m a city girl who had a grandfather with a green thumb that rubbed off on me,” Jenn says. “I’ve always loved gardening because of him, but never thought I would have a garden that would feed more than just my family.”

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When Steve Howe and his wife Jenn opened Howe Farms in 2013, they weren’t exactly tilling new ground—they were simply carrying on a dedication to farming that had been passed down in both of their families for generations stretching back to 1851. In building and growing the business in Crown Point today, the couple hopes to teach their own young kids the importance of farming as not only an occupation, but also as a way of connecting with the community around them in a meaningful way.

“I’m a city girl who had a grandfather with a green thumb that rubbed off on me,” Jenn says. “I’ve always loved gardening because of him, but never thought I would have a garden that would feed more than just my family.”

Now that “family” includes a wide array of friends and businesses throughout Northwest Indiana. Howe Farms is known largely for its hops, which help fuel the output of many local craft brewers, but at any given time the family is also likely to be producing maple syrup, raising chickens or growing a variety of herbs and vegetables in the garden and greenhouse—including beets, carrots, cucumbers, kale, radishes, tomatoes and tomatillos (which, like tomatoes, are actually a fruit).

“Come the end of July and beginning of August, we will have tomatillos ripe and ready,” Jenn says. “We use tomatillos fresh and frozen all year long to make salsa verde. A lot of people are afraid to try them, but their flavor is amazing.”

WHO’S AFRAID OF A TOMATILLO?
Because they have a husk and they aren’t found in all grocery stores, people are often unsure of what to do with tomatillos. But don’t be afraid—they’re delicious and easily stored for later. Unlike tomatoes, they can be stored in a paper bag for three to four weeks in the refrigerator. When refrigerating, don’t take the husk off until you’re ready to use them. Freezing them is even easier—just peel off the husk, rinse and dry them, then put them in a bag.

Photo Credit: Brad M. Wolf
Photo Credit: Brad M. Wolf
Photo Credit: Brad M. Wolf
Photo Credit: Brad M. Wolf

SIBLINGS WITH DIFFERENCES
Tomatillos have more of a tart and citrusy flavor, but they’re not as acidic as tomatoes. They can be harvested and preserved longer than tomatoes, so you can enjoy them all year long.

A LESS-TEMPERAMENTAL SUMMER CROP
Unlike tomatoes, you don’t have to replant tomatillos year after year. If you leave some on the plants they will re-seed themselves the following summer.

They are very easy to grow, they’re pest resistant and they can be grown until the first frost. Also unlike tomatoes, tomatillos are hardy plants that are low maintenance.

GROUP THERAPY
If you only plant one tomatillo plant, it will only flower and not produce a fruit to harvest; you need a minimum of two or three plants in order for them to grow. Just like tomatoes, tomatillos will get top-heavy and need a cage or trellis to keep them supported, and they love full sun and well-drained soil. It takes about sixty to ninety days to get your first harvest of tomatillos.

SMART SHOPPING
You know tomatillos are ripe when their husks are starting to peel off. Make sure they’re still green in color and firm. And if you don’t use them all, you can freeze or refrigerate them for future recipes.