Something Fishy

Something Fishy
t Doesn't Get Much Better

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ground cherry pie, not your typical pie from a tree Washington whacked

Recently our family gathered for a cookout and to celebrate my son’s birthday. My daughter insisted he must have a cherry pie--one of his favorites.
After a relatively cool summer, the weather had finally turned not warm, but hot, so neither me or my wife were anxious to heat up the oven and bake a cherry pie for the event. The grocery bakery came to mind.
By chance, I stopped by a Dutch country store where the folks there sell bulk foods, meats and a number of home grown products. The store has a greenhouse and gardens for fruits and vegetables.
On Saturday, the store usually offers baked goods. When I looked into a cooler, there was a ground cherry pie. I picked up a bag of buckwheat pancake mix as well as several other items and took them to the checkout area. I also retrieved the ground cherry pie. It was already baked and ideal for Erik’s birthday.
“Is a ground cherry a particular type of cherry?”, I asked the young woman wearing a long dress and bonnet behind the counter.
“Yes,” she replied, “but maybe my mother could explain it better.”
A minute or two later, the mother appeared.
I asked her the same question. She indicated a ground cherry is much different from the regular cherries I know.
“They grow on a bush,” she said. “We plant them in the garden. Someone came in this spring and wanted ground cherries, but I told them they wouldn’t be available until fall,” she explained as we unloaded several boxes of tomatoes.
When I asked what they taste like, she explained they were somewhat like a cross between a cherry tomato and pineapple.
Although I knew we would still need to bake a regular cherry pie, I decided to buy the ground cherry pie and try something new.
“When you come back in, I’d like to know what you think about the ground cherry pie,” added the lady.
I haven’t had a chance to offer a review, but must say it is different. The cherries look a bit like orange colored gooseberries, and I can’t say they taste just like any other fruit or vegetable. The pie was good, but I would prefer any good, cherry, apple or peach pie.
Ground cherries more frequently can be found at farmer’s markets in late summer and early fall.  Apparently, they grow wild in some areas along the edges of fields and fence rows, or can be planted and harvested. They also are known as husk tomatoes, strawberry tomatoes and dwarf Cape gooseberries. They are about the size of a blueberry.
Ground cherries and not cherries or gooseberries. Their papery husk looks a bit like a small Chinese lantern. Like tomatillos, they are members of a family that  produces peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and potatoes.
They taste a bit like a super sweet cherry tomato with a hint of pineapple, but it is difficult to describe. And, no, they don’t taste like chicken.
According to one internet site, harvesting ground cherries is easy. The cherries usually fall off the bush. Gather the ground cherries that have collected on the ground, avoiding those with husks that are dark in coloration
The husks should be beige, with a dry, paper-like quality. The fruits should be a rosy yellow color  when removed from their paper-like wrappers.
If the fruits are still tinged with green, let them sit in their husks in a cool, dry place for a few days and they will become sweeter.
Although those who tried the ground cherry pie at Erik’s birthday gathering gave it a passing grade. It may be a dessert that needs an acquired taste.
P.S. The regular cherry pie won the family taste test contest.

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