Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Seasonal Cook :: Ground Cherries

Courtesy of © The Land Connection Foundation
GROUND CHERRIES: Tomato’s Sweet-Tart Cousin
What looks like a yellow cherry tomato hidden inside a little paper lantern, and tastes sweetly tropical with pineapple, mango, and vanilla notes? No, this isn’t a bad joke. It’s a delicious vegetable in the tomato family known as the ground cherry—presumably because they fall to the ground when ripe, and are about the size of a cherry.  Native to the Americas, ground cherries were an important food for Native Americans and the first European pioneers.  But they dropped out of sight with the rise of industrial food production because the fruits continually ripen, and need to be picked each week throughout the late summer and into the fall. This makes ground cherries great for gardeners and diversified farms, but not suitable for large-scale production since they can’t be mechanically harvested all at once. 

A Reemergence of a Tasty Treat
Today, ground cherries are enjoying a renaissance at farm stands and farmers markets. They are not a cherry, but are about the same size, and may be enjoyed raw, straight off the vine, sliced into salads or salsas, or cooked into pies, jams, chutneys and sauces. Thanks to their high pectin content, they are great in pies and jams, on their own or combined with other fruits.

Nature’s Bite-Sized Snack

Ground cherries have the same healthful properties as tomatoes; low in calories but high in nutrients including vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, especially those associated with the color orange. Its vitamin A, C and niacin content rank it among the most nutrient dense for fruit with these nutrients.
The simplest and perhaps best way to enjoy this delicacy is to gently hold it between your index finger and thumb, near the stem-end. Apply gentle pressure and the fruit will pop out of its papery husk--straight into your mouth if you’ve positioned it correctly!

Ground Cherry–Peach Salsa


½ cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 ear fresh corn, grilled or boiled, and the kernels sliced off
½ cup ground cherries, husked and cut in half
1 medium to large peach, diced
1 teaspoon jalapeno or other pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon mint leaves, cut chiffonade
1 tablespoon cilantro, rough chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Juice of ½ lime
Salt to taste


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss well to combine flavors. Allow to sit at room temperature at least ½ hour, then re-season as needed. Serve at room temperature.

Seasonal Cook’s Notes: The many uses for this versatile fruit are limited only by your imagination. If left in their husk, they will keep for months in a well-ventilated spot in your cupboard.

The best way to enjoy healthy, seasonal produce is to buy it from your local community farmer. To locate the farmers’ market or CSA nearest you, or visit www.localharvest.org.
Farm Fresh Now! is a project of The Land Connection, an educational nonprofit that preserves farmland, trains new farmers, and connects people with great locally-grown foods. This series is made possible with generous support from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
(End of Article)
Farm Fresh Now! Secrets of the Seasonal Cook is copyright The Land Connection Foundation and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. All use of the articles and artwork in this series must be attributed to The Land Connection Foundation using the text provided above (all text and links before the End of Article line). 

No comments:

Post a Comment