Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ground Cherry Heaven

Do you know about Ground Cherries?

They are also called Chinese Lanterns or Cape Gooseberries (although they are not a gooseberry).

They look like a small tomatillo and are ripe when they take on a yellowy green colour (and have size up to the diameter of a penny or so). They grow on sprawling tomato/pepper like plants close to the ground (hence the name) and each cherry is individually wrapped with a fine paper that you slip off before you eat the berry. Nature’s version of over-packaging I find. They are shaped like cherry tomatoes. They taste like a cross between a cantaloupe and a tomato (some say pineapple also).

Basket of Ground Cherries

What is sure is that you either love them or hate them. They invoke strong feelings either way the way people feel about olives.

You can sit a heaping Quart beside me in the car and I will have consumed every last berry within half an hour no problem. I actually won't do this with cherry tomatoes or even strawberries as I find them too acidic, too strong. But the subtle sweetness and acidity of ground cherries is just right to my palate.

My favourite thing to do with these little nubbins is to pulverize them with my handheld food processor in a pot (without their papers). Then I add equal part crushed tomato sauce (skins removed).

Once you have a puree base, add in some finely diced green peppers, jalapeno peppers, onions and minced garlic, sugar and vinegar to taste and cook on low temperature until boiling. Once boiled, reduce temperature for 30 minutes or so and then place in jars (though I do freeze it as I don’t have a pressure canner). Once thawed, I find the jar will keep in the fridge for a couple of months. To my taste, this is the best fruit sauce on the planet. I eat it with my eggs or meat pies.

Even people who hate ground cherries have tolerated them this way. I find it gives the same fruity tang to a fruit or chili sauce that peaches or melon would give.

When late summer arrives, they can become unmanageably prolific which is fine by me. If you sit me in a patch of them I play the one for me, one for the basket game. It’s a fun game.

Happy Ground Cherrying.

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