Dried Ground Cherries

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left to right: naked ground cherries, cinnamon raisin dried ground cherries, whole ground cherries with their husks, ground cherry plant 

photo by vsimon

Last year we had 1, this year we 7 ground cherry plants. Some we paid for, some were grown from saved seeds. Some were volunteer plants from last year. This could get out of hand.

A purchase plant was labeled “pineapple ground cherry”, most were simply “ground cherry.” We taste tested each one and didn’t notice any difference in flavor, size, or color. I think the pineapple name is just a marketing ploy.

Vince has already put up 26  jars of ground cherry jam. That is probably enough, even for gift giving. We have also had ground cherry and raspberry crisp. But what to do with this continuing embarrassment of riches? Dry them!! 

We have a super duper commercial quality dehydrator, with a thermostat and a fan. We use it every year for sliced dried tomatoes. Dried until they are thin and crispy, they are easy to crumble by hand into recipes. 

Reasoning, if we didn’t dry them as long, dried ground cherries might be like raisins. They are a similar texture.

We tried drying them whole and halved. Whole took much too long, up to 24 hours. Halved, they are done overnight.

Since ground cherries are not as sweet as grapes, it follows dried ones are not as sweet as raisins.

So they could go either way, sweet or savory. We tried many seasonings. Sugar and cinnamon for sweet. Simple salt and pepper, garam masala, smoked and hot paprika for savory. You can probably think of many other combinations.

The sweets can be summery additions to your breakfast cereal or muffins this fall and winter. The savory ones make good bar snacks. Think of munching on chewy nutless seasoned nuts.

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whole and halved ground cherries with sugar and cinnamon on drying racks photo by vsimon

Sugar and Cinnamon Ground Cherries

These are plenty sweet. As sweet, or sweeter than raisins.

2/3 cup sugar (we used white granulated)

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

8 cups husked ground cherries, halved (about 2.5 pounds)

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix sugar and cinnamon together.

Toss with halved ground cherries.

Place in a single layer on 5 drying racks.

Dry overnight at about 115 degrees. We put the dehydrator outside so it doesn’t heat up the house.

Store in glass containers. Or plastic, if you must. I like to put them in the freezer, they don’t take up much room. It isn’t necessary, I just like to store lots of things in the freezer.

Savory Dried Ground Cherries

Simply halve and sprinkle your choice of seasoning on them. Be careful, a little goes a long way. Start with about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon for 8 cups of ground cherries. They shrink by more than half and the flavoring gets concentrated. You can always add more after they are dry.

What seasonings would you try?

G is for Gomashio

Excuse me? Gomashio (goh-MAH-shee-oh) is an incredibly useful Japanese seasoning made of toasted ground sesame seeds and salt. That is it. Simple, handy, flavorful.

 

toasted sesame seeds photo by kurisuroffo

Gomashio is a wonderful topping for any vegetable, grain, soup, salad, entree or sushi. Really, any savory dish. It adds complex rich flavor and heady aroma, without a big hit of salt. Gomashio is available in Asian markets, or you can easily make your own.

Nutritionally, sesame seeds are a good source of minerals. Especially calcium, iron, phosphorus, copper, magnesium and manganese. And sesame seeds are the second only to flax seeds as the richest source of lignan.

Ratios of seeds to salt in gomashio vary. When you make your own, you can get your favorite combination. I like this combination.

Gomashio

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1 teaspoon sea salt

Toast the seeds if you did not buy them already toasted.

Put seeds into a dry large shallow pan. Turn on the heat and shake the pan while the seeds toast, a minute or two. Or place seeds on a rimmed sheet pan in a preheated 350-degree oven and toast for about 5 minutes.

Either way, do not walk away! Watch them closely. They burn in an instant. Have a cool plate nearby to put the toasted seeds on, so you can get them out of the hot pan quickly.

Allow seeds to cool completely. Put seeds and salt in a coffee grinder and process to a fine dry powder. Stop before you get a wet paste.

shadows on salt flats photo by Alicia Nijdam

Please tell us your favorite way to use gomashio.