While we’re talking about other backyard fruits, here’s a reminder about the Ground Cherry. I wrote an article on ground cherries a couple of years ago, and I still love these little fruits.
For those of you who have never heard of ground cherries, they are a small, half-inch to three-quarter-inch fruit that’s a close relative of the tomatillo and, like a tomatillo, grows inside a paper husk. They are native in many parts of the U.S. and are very easy to grow. They are rarely bothered by pests or diseases and grow with almost no effort.
The plants can be invasive if you don’t pay attention to where you’re planting them, but I located mine in a raised bed, and have no problem controlling them. Usually, I pick up most of the fruit, but last year I purposely left a few in the bed to see if they’d germinate this year.
Luckily I did so, because I could not get my indoor seeds to grow this year. Ground cherries are very easy to grow from last year’s seeds and mine germinated with no problem. They just wouldn’t get big enough to bother planting. But, while I was trying, I noticed the plants coming up in my raised bed, thinned them out to what I wanted, and gave up on the indoor plants. In the future, this is the method I’ll use.
The taste of the ripe fruit is delicious, but is hard to describe. My best attempt is to say they have a kind of citrusy, pineapple, vanilla cream flavor. They are good fresh, in pies or other baked goods, in jelly, in salsa, and – my personal favorite – dipped in dark chocolate.
The taste alone is reason to grow them, but, by growing them, you’ll also be helping to save a plant from extinction. Ground-cherries are currently listed as endangered in many parts of the country, and have achieved a place in the Ark of Taste, an initiative from Slow Food USA, in which more than 200 foods in danger of extinction have been cataloged.
The Ark of Taste chooses varieties whose cultural and culinary significance makes them worth saving. Grow ground-cherries and you are helping to preserve a piece of agriculture. Seeds and transplants can be obtained through Seed Savers Exchange.