Sunday, August 30, 2009

ground cherries

I was excited to see ground cherry starts at my local farm supply nursery this spring. I had only seen the plant once before, on a farm in the Sierras where a friend worked years ago. I visited her one day and tasted this unique fruit for the first time, filing the name away in my head before hopping off a boulder for a luxurious mountain swim.

Ground cherries are in the Solanaceae family (one of my favorites), the same family as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, and are closely related to tomatillos. Our plant grew only about a foot tall but spread 3 feet or so in all directions, in a seemingly friendly competition for space with our butternut squash. Flowers are yellow and star-shaped, and the berry-sized fruits hang like little green lanterns. Ground cherries are ripe when the papery skin becomes brown and dry and the fruits drop to the ground. Peel off the papery skin to reveal a small orange fruit with a unique taste--part pineapple, part citrus, part tomato.

The taste is not for everyone, but they are pretty popular around our house. Good thing because they are quite plentiful these days. Sam has said more than once, "I love ground cherries Mommy!" and he searches for them every time we are out in the garden. I think unwrapping the papery skin is a big part of the appeal. One of Sam's Montessori teachers is really into doing tastings of unusual foods with the kids, and she was excited when I told her about our ground cherries. I plan to bring some into his class for a tasting soon.


heather said...

I sure hope that Sam's adventurous eating rubs off on his cousin!

A Country Farmhouse said...

I've never had the pleasure of trying a Ground Cherry. I love that they're wrapped in such delicate shells. ; ) Trina