My family loves as we call it green sauce. I guess it’s also called a green salsa or chili verde. The only way to make this in any quantity is to grow your own tomatillos. Now luckily these plants seem to grow very well and quite easily here in our desert. The first year we tried growing them it was pure experiment. We had never grown them before and had no idea what we were doing. We bought some plants and then sat back to watch. We thought we had done something terribly wrong when pods formed but were empty of fruit. So google here we come!

We found that the pods form first and then the fruit grows to fill them. 20130529085856 We discovered that the fruit is ready to pick when it has split the pods. Further research gave us some very interesting facts. Did you know that tomatillos can vary in flavor and bitterness from bush to bush, even from limb to limb? Well neither did we, but we do now! We learned from our experience that here in the heat of the desert when the tomatoes have given their all by early June, the tomatillos will continue for another month, maybe even increase their yield.

We had no bug issue with them this first year and had no idea they could get a particular bug. Ah the bliss of the naive!

This year having enjoyed a great crop from the year before and having canned several quarts of a lovely green sauce we got seriously ambitious about the number of tomatillos we would grow. So we planted 20 little plants, fertilized, weeded and sat back to watch. They took off growing like they were running from zombies! They got big very fast and started to produce those cute pods we had learned to look for. We started picking the first little fruits and then we noticed that the plants looked chewed up, sickly, and after a week or so down right abused.

We couldn’t find the source of the chewing but took to google yet again to compare the chewed leaves to any pictures we could find and Ta-Da, we find the 3-lined potato beetle! RH6RKHERTZIZ2LZZ2LZZOLQZDLRZELRZJZLZEL3LYZSRDZHZCLQZTLZZ3ZSRCZSRFZ7R6LFLWL3LTZMRPL3L6LZZUL I had no idea this thing even existed and now suddenly I’m obsessed with getting rid of it to save my harvest.

I’m not big on pesticides, not completely opposed, but not thrilled to use them. So with a little more research we learn that this little bug is about the size of a ladybug and we should squish them or coax them into soapy water to get rid of them. Then we learn that they lay their eggs on the bottom of the plant leaves and we need to squish them too. So a-hunting we will go.

My husband and I head out to the garden to look for bugs and eggs. We are on hands and knees looking and poking and squinting to find the critters. We don’t find bugs but Adam comes up with a leaf whose underside has what looks a cluster of brown colored eggs glued to it. He says “what do we do?” I say, “We squish it!”

Now let me set this up for you: we have raised garden beds, we have built them with railroad ties. Adam is kneeling by the bed, I am standing by the bed about 2 feet from him. He turns the leaf over onto the tie and gently presses down on it. I feel something hit my arm, and then more, and then more, I look down at my arm and see 4 greenish brownish slimy glops of goop sliding down my arm!!!!! EEEEEEEWWWWW!!!

Adam can’t help himself, he laughs! I laugh, well maybe I snort, then I head for a lot of soap and water. That ended out desire to hunt down the bugs and their unborn young and proceed to squish.

Now, you would think that would end this lovely story, but it does not. Adam loves to research, he likes to know things. So over the next couple days he looks for a better way to destroy said bugs that are now devastating our crop. As a sideline he learns quite a bit about the bug itself, and at a family Sunday dinner he entertains us with his research. For instance, did you know that the eggs of the 3-lined potato beetle are actually red and laid on the underside of the leaf in a row? And did you know that the beetle has a habit of covering itself with piles of it’s own dung as it attaches to the underside of the leaf as a protection against predators?

While not the most appetizing of dinner conversations the important point here is…….my arm was covered in beetle poop and guts! Yes, more soap, a lot more soap.