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?

Antioxidants in Sweeteners

as slow as molasses

as slow as molasses photo by technicool

Are you avoiding white sugar because it is just empty calories? And using agave, honey, or date sugar because they are less refined and have more nutrition?

You might be surprised by a scientific study named Total Antioxidant Content of Alternatives to Refined Sugar, printed in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association January 2009. It tested the antioxidant levels of many sweeteners.

What was tested?

agave nectar (light, amber and raw)
blue agave nectar
brown rice syrup
brown rice malt syrup (not gluten free)
barley malt syrup (not gluten free)
corn syrup (light)
date sugar
honey
maple syrup (100% pure)
molasses (dark and black strap)
sugar (white, light brown, dark brown, turbinado, raw cane)

How where they tested?

Sweeteners where purchased from major retailers, health food stores, and online distributors. From one to 53 samples were tested for each sweetener. Honey had the most samples, representing mostly refined clover honey as it is most available.

Results- a few surprises!

In order of antioxidant levels, high to low.

Sweetener Relative amount of antioxidants
date sugar xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                       
molasses, blackstrap xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
molasses, dark xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
barley malt syrup xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (not gluten free)
brown rice malt syrup xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (not gluten free)
sugar, dark brown xxxxx
100% maple syrup xxxx
sugar, light brown xxx
sugar, raw cane xx
honey xx
sugar, turbinado x                                                                                     
agave nectar
corn syrup, light  
sugar, white                                                                             

Notes: White sugar, corn syrup, and agave nectar had almost no antioxidants. 

These are composite results. The study did show some variability of antioxidant levels between samples of the same type of some sweeteners.

My graph is a crude representation of the results.

How does this compare with other foods?

broccoli, raw xxx
milk chocolate candy xxxxxxxxx
red wine (merlot) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
blueberries xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
walnuts xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Note: Common serving sizes where compared.

Walnuts where way off this chart. One ounce of walnuts have about twice the antioxidants of one ounce of date sugar.

Can we switcheroo?

It is not possible to use some high antioxidant sweeteners measure for measure in place of white sugar in many recipes. A cup or more of black strap molasses in a cake will not be good. Date sugar is delicious, but will change the flavor, color and texture in recipes with lots of sugar. It is also expensive and not readily available. Some recipes successfully use these sweeteners though.

It is pretty easy to substitute dark brown sugar for white in many recipes. Did you know that brown sugar is simply refined white sugar mixed with molasses? The darker the sugar, the more molasses.

Stir 1 tablespoon molasses into 1 cup of white sugar to make dark brown sugar.

Using averages, the researchers concluded that substituting high antioxidant sweeteners for white sugar can increase the antioxidants consumed as much as having a serving of blueberries. That is because we eat so much sugar.

To much sugar

The average American eats 31 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Yikes!! While it is useful to use high antioxidant sweeteners, it is also important to simply use less sugar. And according to this study, using agave is not much better than white sugar.

Not tested yet

I like sorghum syrup and have used palm sugar too. They were not tested, so I do not know the antioxidant levels of these sweeteners. If anyone has this information, please share.

palm sugar1

palm sugar photo by vsimon

The study authors are Katherine M. Phillips, PhD; Monica H. Carlsen, MSc; Rune Blomhoff, PhD.