Today's market-goers are versed in grape varietals, wild strawberries and alternative salad greens (purslane, anyone?). But one little fruit--in season for the next few weeks--still causes confusion: ground cherries.
Ground cherries (aka cape gooseberries, husk tomatoes or strawberry tomatoes) have a tomatillo-like husk that, when pulled back, reveals a dense, smooth fruit that turns bright orange when ripe. Depending on the grower (try Seedling or Harvest Moon Farms), you may find them at the farmers' market nestled among the tomatoes or the berries--appropriate places, as their flavor is a bit of both.
There's a distinct tomato-like element to the taste, but also a fruity sweetness that ranges from tangy pineapple (in less-ripe berries) to sweet melon, strawberry and caramel flavors in the ripest ones.
The sweet-savory flavor makes them versatile: Troy Graves of Eve cooks them down with Serrano chiles, rice vinegar and sugar to make a sweet-hot sauce for seared yellowtail. NAHA's pastry chef dips them in dark chocolate, and Adam Seger muddles them into cocktails.
Jill Barron serves potato pancakes with ground cherry chutney at the vegetarian Mana Food Bar. But when cooking at home, she makes a simple, spicy salsa to serve with grilled chicken, fish or--her favorite protein--pork tenderloin (click here to download the recipe).
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