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!

H is for Herb

Do you pronounce it “erb” or “herb?” I say “erb.” Either way, adding fresh herbs to your meals simply seems to elevate the day.

Herbs are so easy to grow, they are a perfect introduction to gardening. You can start with a garden plot or a sunny windowsill. This is the prefect time of year to begin.

Chives are some of the first things I can harvest in my garden each year. They are they are perennials, and they come back quickly every year. They are not picky about sun, soil or water. Some of each is all they ask. You can plant seeds directly in the garden, or grow them in a sunny window. Chive plants are readily available in garden centers and sometimes in the market.

chive-plant-with-flowers photo by Crystl

Chives have a pleasant mild onion flavor and scent. Scrambled eggs with chives are an early spring tradition for us. As our tea is steeping, a trip to the edge of the patio with scissors (usually still dressed in a robe) is all that is needed to harvest a handful. The pale lavender flowers are edible too. Separate them into small clumps of petals and sprinkle on salads.

Homemade herb salad dressing is a very simple and inexpensive way to add gluten free flavor to your meals. I call it salad dressing, but it is a versatile topping for veggies, meat, poultry or fish. Today I give you a recipe using chives, because that is what I have in abundance now. You can adapt this for many other herbs though.


chive-dressing-on-fish photo by vsimon

submitted to Grow Your Own May 28, 2009 roundup

Chive Salad Dressing

Check out the color! And a delicate flavor, perfect for those who like things mild.

1 cup chopped chives

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

¼ cup mild flavored oil

¼ cup water

¼ teaspoon salt

Process in a small blender until smooth, about 1 minute. I use the tall cup attachment with my immersion blender. This dressing thickens with time. If you make it several hours before you use it, thin with more water or oil to desired consistency.


cilantro photo by Henrique_Vincente

Cilantro is a love it or hate herb. Some describe it as lovely, others say it is soapy. Some are polite and say it is an acquired taste. We crave it and use it generously on Mexican, Indian, and Thai foods.

It spoils quickly after harvest, and goes to seed quickly in the garden. When we are really organized, we sow seeds in two-week intervals. But really, that usually does not happen.

Epicurious has a versatile high flavor recipe for Cilantro Garlic Sauce. This sauce is a darker green than the chive sauce, but still vibrant. We drizzle it on beef as suggested in the recipe. But it also often tops enchiladas, veggies, or eggs at our house. It keeps in the fridge for a week or two. And we freeze it in small batches to liven up winter foods.


dill-seed-fireworks photo by Jurek_d.

Dill weed is a natural in seafood dishes. My favorite is shrimp salad with lots of fresh dill and lemon. We favor the leaves, not the seeds, but both are edible. You just need to plant dill in the garden once. Even though it is an annual, it self seeds and sprouts every year, every where. Even when we roto till the garden, it just keeps coming up. We do not mind, we harvest a whole plant when we want dill for dinner. Dill gets to be 3 feet tall, too big for a windowsill garden.

swallowtail-caterpillar photo by Shelly_and_Roy

One year, our wayward dill fed about a dozen yellow swallowtail caterpillars. The plants were stripped bear in a couple of days, you could almost hear the munching. But what a stunning sight when the butterflies started appearing! I think this is reason enough to let dill do as it pleases.


yellow-swallowtail-butterfly photo by OakleyOriginals

Basil, ah basil. Sweet, cinnamon, Thai, lime… There are so many kinds, each with distinct flavor, aroma, appearance and use. Sweet basil goes in spicy Italian Puttanesca Sauce with kalamata olives. Basil is the backbone flavor in Shrimp and Quinoa. Whole Thai or lime basil leaves get tightly rolled up in rice paper in my Midwest Summer Rolls, a loose adaptation of Thai Spring Rolls. When you have fresh basil in the kitchen, you will catch yourself pinching it under your nose and breathing in deeply to capture the heady scent.

Basil-leaf-face photo by L.Marie

Future posts will include some of the recipes talked about here. And there are many other herbs to savor everyday. We will highlight more herbs in the future, fresh and dried. For now, I encourage you to sow some seeds or plant some plants. Your nose and tummy will surely thank you.