Ground cherries

by guest blogger Rich Baringer

Back in May when we bought the plants for our veggie garden, we found ground cherry plants. Neither of us really knew what they were, but it was something different, so we bought a few.

The overwhelming response I get when I mention ground cherries to someone is: “Oh, my mother (or grandmother) used to make pies out of them. I haven’t had those since I was a kid!” But no one seems to know exactly what they are.

Well, ground cherries are not cherries at all. In fact, they’re a relative of the tomato, tomatillo and gooseberry. They’re called ground cherries because when ripe, they fall from the plant–onto the ground. Like tomatillos and gooseberries, the ground cherry grows in a husk that protects the little yellowish-orange berry inside.

They continue to sweeten if you let them sit in their husks for several weeks after harvesting. They keep very well and can be stored for up to 3 months if left in the husk.

Most people do make pies from them, but you can also make jam and marmalade from them, poach them to be eaten over ice cream, put them in salads and muffins or even dip them in chocolate. They can be dried and eaten like raisins. And they freeze very well so you can use them year-round.

Their taste is kind of hard to describe: strange, complex, slightly sweet. There’s a bit of a sweet tomato taste there and kind of a tropical flavor–like a papaya. Some say that they taste pineapple and even a hint of vanilla.

I’ll let you know what I make from them and how it turns out. It’s said that they re-seed very easily, so I guess I’ll have ground cherries next year, too!

You can meet up with Rich as he does chef demonstrations with great local food: September 4th at the Plumsteadville Grange Farmers’ Market and September 11th at the Indian Valley Farmers’ Market in Telford. Look for ground cherries at local farm markets or farms, like Penn Vermont Fruit Farm in Bedminster.

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