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Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Today: These berries are so cute you'll want to eat them all week long, and you can -- just don't ask us to tell you what they taste like.
Cape gooseberries are nightshades, so they belong to a family that includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes. They're also closely related to tomatillos, perhaps not surprisingly, as they look like a miniature version. Think you've seen these lantern-like papery-husked berries at the market called something else? You probably have. Cape gooseberries look strikingly similar to ground cherries -- so similiar they could be twins. Although they are different species, they can be used in recipes interchangeably. Both cape gooseberries and ground cherries go by a wide variety of names (that are often used between species), including husk tomatoes, strawberry tomatoes, golden berries, and Physalis -- which is actually the genus of plants that these fruits belong to.
When ripe, ground cherries will fall off the plant (can you guess where the name came from?), and the berries will be be golden yellow or orange. Their flavor is almost as confusing as their name. The berry's unusual taste is compared to various combinations of tomato, strawberry, mango, pineapple, vanilla, fig, grape, and more -- it’s enough to make your head spin. Author and naturalist Euell Gibbons wisely summed up their elusive essence as “so good it doesn’t have to resemble something else.” We’re inclined to agree.
How to Use
Cape gooseberries are flexible: they can be consumed raw or cooked, and they work well in savory and sweet dishes. Add ground cherries to a green salad, salsa, relish, or chutney. Their husks aren't edible, but keep them on -- just peeled back (1) -- and they’re ready to be dipped in chocolate or used as a garnish. Toss them into a fruit salad, turn them into a jam, roast them for a sauce, or dry them like raisins. Try cape gooseberries in a coffee cake, tart, or an upside-side cake. Kept in their husks (2) they store well, but we bet once you find them, they won't last very long. Try our ideas for the week and let us know what your favorite ways to use these berries are -- whatever you may call them.
Friday: Grilled Corn, Basil, and Ground Cherry Salad
Saturday: Ground Cherry Cupcake Pies
Sunday: 10 Minute Ground Cherry Coffee Cake
Monday: Cape Gooseberry Chimichurri Chicken Sandwich
Tuesday: Lemon Verbena Tart with Cape Gooseberry Compote
Wednesday: Black Cod and Ground Cherries en Papillote
Thursday: Cape Gooseberry Meringue Pie
Photos by James Ransom