Monday, October 10, 2011

Meatless Monday: Latest Market Find of the Week…

… is the Ground Cherry (genus Physalis).  

Inside these papery, pagoda-shaped packages are a tiny, sweet fruit resembling a small cherry tomato. Those of you who know the tomatillo may find it looks to be a mini version of that fruit, also a Physalis.

The ground cherry, known also as the husk tomato or cape gooseberry, is a member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) which includes tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. It is not to be confused with the true gooseberry (Ribes), which grows naked on a  bush with prickly thorns. Ground cherries are high in Vitamins C and K, niacin, potassium, and fiber. Native to Central and S. America, the fruit can be propagated from seeds to maturity in 90 days and is a high yielder. The plants need no fertilizer and tolerate poor soil. 

In early autumn you may be lucky enough to find ground cherries at farmers’ markets. They are a bit pricey: you can expect to pay about $4/pint. The husked fruit can be eaten raw by itself or as a salad garnish, dipped in chocolate, cooked down into preserves, or baked in a pie. Popping the fruit from the husks will make your hands dirty, but the fruit inside is clean. [I would still wash before using in a recipe.] It takes a bit of work (as well as cash) to pop out the 2+ cups needed for a pie, but since we love a good pie at my house, that’s what I did. [Ground cherry pie is not a good candidate for the Slow Food $5 Meal Challenge unless you grew the cherries yourself.] 

I used an “Old Mennonite Recipe” for Ground Cherry Pie with Crumb Topping which you will find all over the internet in identical form. 

Requirements: One, unbaked pie shell; 2 and 1/2 cups of ground cherries, husked and washed.
Ingredients for the filling: 1/2 cup packed brown sugar; 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour; 2 tablespoons of water
Ingredients for the topping: 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour; 3 tablespoons of white sugar; 2 tablespoons of butter

Preheat oven to 425° F

Place washed ground cherries in bottom of pie shell. Mix brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of flour and sprinkle over cherries. Sprinkle water over top. Stir together white sugar and flour, and cut in butter until crumbly. Top cherry mixture with crumbs. 

Cover the edge of the crust with foil before putting in the oven.

Bake at 425° for 15 minutes.

Lower the heat to 375°, remove the foil and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes more. The pie will be done when the filling is bubbly.

This pie is delicious when served warm, either unadorned or topped with a bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. It does not require much, particularly if your crust is made with butter.

Happy Columbus Day and please come back soon for more food facts or my latest produce discovery. Thanks for reading.

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal  health and the health of our planet.”

For those of you who are following my Green Bean Petition, I am making good progress towards the 200 mark, on my way to 500. Thanks to all who have signed so far. Let’s keep it going and growing.


  1. Great recipe - we grew one ground cherry plant this year not knowing what to expect. The fruits were spectacular - but must admit we never had enough for pie. This pie is a good motivator... I'm thinking 4 plants should be enough. Thanks. Sherill

  2. Glad I could help. The pie really is delicious.