Ground cherries are in season right now, and some lucky readers may find them at their local farmers’ market. This hardy fruit has a thin husk and looks a lot like a tomatillo as it ripens. Ground cherries are sometimes called cape gooseberries, but they are in a different genus from the round, slightly fuzzy gooseberries that grow on thorned bushes.Ground cherry plants have no thorns and, while slow to start from seed or last year’s fallen fruit outdoors, grow quickly once the weather warms up. In southern Wisconsin, they are more like self-seeding annuals than perennials, and you can speed up your growing a bit by purchasing seedlings at farmers’ markets or from Seed Savers. The fruits often fall to the ground before they are fully ripe, but the fruit stays clean inside the husk. I like to mulch my plants with straw so I don’t need to pick the fruits out of the mud anyway. Later in the summer I will push a few fruits into the ground somewhere in my garden to get started on next year’s plants.
To me, ground cherries taste a little like pineapple; others suggest something between a pineapple and a strawberry. They have a somewhat grainy texture from their many tiny seeds. You can eat them plain. They are also good on salads. Try this: spinach, Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, your favorite nuts and/or thinly sliced chicken, ground cherries, and some vinaigrette.
Other uses? Vicki has a chutney recipe on her blog that I’m looking forward to trying. I think they’d make a fun jam or fruit sauce. But my favorite use is either on salad or in salsa. When your family loves to cook, sometimes you find buried treasure tucked into a cookbook. Here’s a favorite treasure from my garden & kitchen to yours.
Dennis’s Ground Cherry Salsa
makes a little over 1 pint
1 pint ground cherries in husk (1 cup or slightly more after husks removed)
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup minced garlic chives (substitute 1 clove minced garlic if you don’t have these fun perennial herbs)
1 medium-sized, medium hot pepper. Red looks best. (Adjust to your own preference.)
2 TBSP. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
Combine all ingredients. Chop by hand or using food processor.
Cover & chill at least 2 hours before eating.