Friday, November 7, 2014

Offering You the Humble Ground Cherry

It's been almost two weeks since I last posted. No, I haven't been out of town. Yes, I've been a bit busier than usual (helping my Dad move and dismantle the home that he and my mom shared for a very long time). But those are not the reasons why I haven't written.

And it isn't that life hasn't been good; it has. We've had the first fire in the fireplace, which I always find comforting. We've caught up with an old friend over a bowl of black bean soup. We've planted some more trees along the drive. And have on tap this weekend to clean up the garden and lay down cardboard and straw for decomposition over the winter.

But none of these things registered with me as blog worthy. I just haven't been struck by that lightening bolt of inspiration that makes me want to pull up a new window and excitingly begin to tell you about something going on around Farm Dover. If I'm not excited to tell you about it, it probably means that you won't find it particularly interesting to read about.

I was looking for something big. I haven't found it. Instead, today I offer you something small. I offer you the humble ground cherry.

Maggie gave me my first ground cherry plant and every year "volunteers" reseed in my garden. I've tried to get them to grow in our "bad" field, since I read somewhere that they do well in poor soil. No luck yet.

They get their name from the fact that they drop their fruit to the ground when it is ripe. They are also sometimes called Cape Gooseberries or Husk Cherries. They are, in fact, related to the tomato and the tomatillo and are part of the nightshade family.

They are the last thing to come out of my garden this year. Just yesterday I pulled them up by the roots and put the plants with their papery hanging fruit onto the ping-pong table to dry.

I've been harvesting them a handful at a time for the last couple of months. I put them into salads and then watch carefully as my eaters taste them and try to figure out what in the world they are.They are tart. But sometimes when fully ripe, almost sweet – a cross between a strawberry/pineapple and a tomato.

In O Pioneers!, Willa Cather’s Mrs. Bergson “made a yellow jam of the insipid ground cherries that grew on the prairie, flavoring it with lemon peel.” I don't know why she called them insipid. I find them anything but.

Perhaps, like Mrs. Bergson, I'll make some jam.

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