Ground Cherry Salsa

groundcherry (5)

ground cherries in husks photo by vsimon

Salsa is perfect in the heat of the summer. Super fresh produce, raw, ready in a few minutes. No need to heat up the kitchen. And in this case, no need to venture to the store. We use what is ripe in the garden.

Have you ever heard of ground cherries?

We grow the usual- beans, tomatoes, cucumbers. And the unusual.

We ran across a ground cherry plant at the nursery this spring and  said, “there must be room for that.” And we are delighted with our ground cherries. These are new to us, the old timers are more likely to know about ground cherries than we are. They probably would not think of salsa though.

Ground cherries grow in their own package. A papery husk protects them. It might be edible (I do not know), but I doubt it is palatable. Pop the golden colored fruit out of the husk before eating. Green fruits are not ripe yet.

What do they taste like?

We have been trying to describe the flavor to each other.

Sweet? Yes, moderately, not a sweet as a grape.
Vanilla? Maybe.
Pineapple-ish? Maybe.
Cream? She says yes, he says no.
Tomato-ish? He says yes, she says, “now that you mention it”.
Musky? Slightly.

You can see it is a bit difficult to nail down this complex flavor. It could pair well with sweet or savory dishes.

What could you do with ground cherries?

Jam for sure. A sauce for pork tenderloin could work. Of course, pie or tarts. Mixed into coffee cakes. Covered with dark chocolate. How do you use them?


ground cherry plant 

ground cherry plant photo by vsimon

How to grow ground cherries.

They are easy, easy, easy. Plant a small plant in a sunny spot. Give it plenty of room. In Wisconsin, fruits start to ripen in late July, and continue until frost. We started with one plant. I suspect ground cherries will be like dill. You only need to plant it once. Next year volunteers will sprout all over the garden. Right now that sounds appealing to me. I will let you know if I change my mind next year.

How to harvest.

Ripe ground cherries fall off the plant and land on the ground. Hence the name. The papery husk keeps it clean. Simply pick up the yellow ripe fruit. In theory, these “cherries” are easy to reach, so this could be a good job for short people.

But it feels like I am doing yoga in the garden while harvesting ground cherries. There is a lot of twisting and reaching to get to all of them out from under the sprawling plant. At first, we did this about every three days. Now we harvest every day.

We have been harvesting ground cherries for about two weeks now. First we made a simple, right from the garden salsa, see recipe below. Then we added them to mixed fruit salad, and liked it. Now we keep them in a bowl on the counter and eat them out of hand. We hope to harvest enough for jam or chutney soon.

About the other salsa ingredients

We also are trying carrot peppers. This is a hot pepper that looks like a small carrot. What you think is carrot in the photo is really the pepper. I like sweet and heat, so added it to the ground cherries. It was really hot. Not as hot as a habanero, but plenty hot. So I added diced cucumber to cool it down. And cilantro because I love it. Hot, cold, sweet, heat, herbal. It’s all good. This is a perfect fresh side dish for a Mexican menu.

ground cherry salsa

ground cherry and cucumber salsa photo by vsimon

Ground Cherry and Cucumber Salsa

ingredients metric measures
1/2 cup husked and diced ground cherries 70 gm
1 cup peeled, seeded, diced cucumbers 180 gm
1 carrot pepper, a few slices for garnish,
the rest diced fine
20 gm
1/4 cup chopped cilantro 15 gm

Mix it up. Any leftovers keep for a day or two in the fridge.

You may not have access to ground cherries this year. I am not likely to find them at my supermarket, but they might be available at a farmers market. They are fun to play with and are worth planting in your garden next year. Stay tuned for a few more ground cherry recipes.

*This post will be submitted to Grow Your Own #33, a twice a month recipe roundup, hosted this time by MomGateway.  Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes started Grow Your Own nearly two years ago. Grow Your Own celebrates foods we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we make using our homegrown products. Reason enough for a celebration!

20 thoughts on “Ground Cherry Salsa”

  1. When these little plants came up in my flower bed, I didn’t know what they were. I was growing tomatillos in my vegetable gardens, and the little lanterns on my volunteers piqued my curiousity. At first, I thought they were cape gooseberries, but upon further research, I realized that the leaves were all wrong for those. More research… turns out they are a WEED here in Virginia. (Check out the wikipedia page on ground cherries.) That didn’t bother me. They are a free, edible weed. So I waited for them to ripen and when I had enough, I made ground cherry wine (from a recipe on the the internet). Just finally bottled it yesterday. Here’s the thing, it’s AWFUL! Way too dry of a wine for my taste, but… it will get you drunk in a hurry. The alcohol content is really high. So, I’m calling my wine “Meh!”

    Enough of them fell that I’m sure that my flowerbed will be overrun with them next year. In addition to dropping their little seeds, they also shoot runners under the ground. Not a good plant to have go wild.

  2. rdlinda: As promised here is the latest. The cherries did not ripen very well
    and we ended up disposing of them. We do enjoy the red currant/ground
    cherry marmalade we made with the first batch, as well the apple/cinnamon/ground cherry butter. They really lend themselves to many different flavor combinations as well as tasting delicious all on their

  3. The rain knocked many of them down and they split. Many more of them
    are still green. Will they ripen or can they be used for something like a
    salsa? Any recipes or ideas?

    1. I am sorry, I am not sure. Our ground cherry harvest has been done for a while. We didn’t try them green, we were over loaded with golden ripe ones.

      We did harvest many from the ground, but they were mostly golden, ripe, and sweetish. We kept some on the counter for a while. They did seem to ripen a bit more over time.

      I’d taste them green to gage the flavor and sweetness. Then if you like it, you could try salsa as you suggest. Or jam, chutney, or a sauce for pork or chicken.

      Please share any experiments with us.
      Kind regards,

      1. Thank you for your quick reply. I’ll keep you informed. The green cherries
        are in a flat cardboard box in a cool room covered with some layers of
        newspaper. We hope they will ripen. I did eat a few of the green ones
        but they are rather tart. We’ll see how it all turns out. Best wishes

        Fred Z.

  4. These are one of the joys of summer and surprisingly hard to find! I bought 2 large containers at our farmers market yesterday, popped about 20 out of the husks and put them atop a salad for my husband’s work pot-luck…they were a huge hit!

    Finding little treasures like ground cherries are part of the joy that is living!

  5. What a great use for those Pohas (what they’re called in Hawaii)! Here they’re mostly used for jam. Also called Cape Gooseberries I believe. I used to grow them and need to start some more.

  6. I’ve seen these or something a lot like them, and they were called gooseberries. Are they the same thing? I usually just pop these into my mouth and eat them, never though of making salsa, what a great idea!

    1. Hi Andrea,
      It is confusing that so many plants have so many names. In my neck of the woods, gooseberries are smaller, light green, and naked (no husk). They grow on an upright thorny perrenial bush and I am not sure what they taste like. Are they sweet? Our ground cherries are a spawling annual plant, now about 5 feet across and 3 feet tall, very close to the ground.