Groundcherries, husk tomato, tomate de cascara, Physalis pruinosa, and poha are names for my favorite little fruit. There are over 35 species of physalis and most are edible. They are called groundcherries because the fruit fall to the ground as they ripen. They are called husk tomatoes because the fruit, resembling a small yellow tomato, develops inside a husk. As a teenager in Indiana I would find groundcherries at the side of the road as I bicycled through the country side. I seldom found very many. One year I was able to find enough to make a groundcherry pie. Perhaps because of my inability to find sufficient numbers of groundcherries I have had a burning desire to make groundcherry jelly. Several years ago I purchased seed. Last year I grew them but did not have enough ripe fruit to make even a pie. This year I was determined to make jelly so I grew groundcherries everywhere in my garden where there was a full sun exposure. As the fruits ripened I place them in ziplock bags in the freezer. Today I discovered I had 9 1/2 cups of husked fruit, which was enough for jam. I placed small amounts of the fruit (minus the husks) in a food processor. This produced 4 cups of mashed fruit. I cooked the groundcherries, lemon juice, and sugar it for about 15 minutes. I then added the no-sugar needed pectin to a rolling boil. After cooling it was poured into freezer containers purchased 5 for $2 at Big Lots. The jelly set up perfectly within a very short time. Since it has lots of small seeds it has the texture of strawberry jam but the taste of peaches.
Groundcherry Jam Recipe
(4 cups crushed fruit)
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
3 cups sugar
Tomatillos(Mexican Ground Cherries) have been cultivated in Mexico since the time of the Aztecs and are grown over much of Central and South America. The plant and fruit resembles their cousin, the Ground Cherry. The Tomatillo fruit fills out the husk whereas the ground cherry has a much smaller fruit. When I have grown the tomatillo I used it green in sauces. I never thought about picking the fruit when it was ripe – a yellow color. My niece grew a surplus of Tomatillos this summer and let some of them ripen on the kitchen counter. She asked me if I wanted to make jam out of the fruit. I was dubious at first but I was surprised and pleased when I tasted the Tomatillo Jam. The secret to a delicious Tomatillo Jam is to let the fruit ripen until they are yellow in color. Follow the recipe above for Ground Cherry Jam.