“Whoa, you have to try these!”

One of the most unique plants grown in the gardens were the ground cherries. These small, tomato-esque fruits are grown in a papery husk and look almost like small paper lanterns. Ground cherries belong to the same genus as tomatillos which have a similar papery husk and are members of the same as tomatoes. Ground cherries have a taste that is slightly sweet, like a tomato mixed with a pineapple, and a texture that’s a cross between a tomato and a grape. The ground cherry was given its name from the fact that the fruit falls to the ground when ripe and ready for harvest. Ground cherries are given many manes, including ground tomatoes, husk cherries, winter cherries, and strawberry tomatoes (http://www.smithsonianmag.com).

Students are often very excited to try ground cherries. Their unique look, flavor, and method of growth contribute to their uniqueness. Some enjoy the flavor, other don’t, but all can agree that this plant is not a mainstream crop found in super markets. The garden is excited to bring diversity onto the plates of students.

In Food and Society, ground cherries were one of the research subjects students could choose from. Not only is harvesting ground cherries fun and different from other produce, but interesting recipes can be created with the incorporation of these little fruits. Below is a recipe for ground cherry salsa:

Cherry Tomato and Ground Cherry Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup halved ground cherries
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoon minced red chili
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin,  1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions: In a medium bowl, fold together cherry tomatoes, ground cherries, onion, garlic, chili, and cilantro. Drizzle the lime juice and olive oil over the top, folding a couple times to incorporate. Then sprinkle with cumin, salt, and pepper. Fold again to bring it all together. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for an hour or two before serving. Serve with tortilla chips, or over grilled fish or chicken.

Source: Score, Brenda. “Cherry Tomato and Ground Cherry Salsa.” Web Blog Post. A Farmgirl’s Dabbles. Brenda Score, 20 Aug. 2015. Web. 15 Sep. 2016.

Students were excited to try these ground cherries, as very few of them had ever experienced eating a plant like this. Ground cherries quickly became a garden favorite, as students would ask after them and join harvest work parties in the hopes of gathering ground cherries. Big success!

-IC Campus Gardens

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