To me nothing says the end of summer like ground cherries (a.k.a. cape gooseberry or husk tomato) showing up at the farmers market. I’m still surprised at the lack of interest in them though, even though people’s desire to cook with them seems to be on the rise. Part of the barrier to enjoying them is likely the cost-even I balk at the price of 60/flat, nearly double what I can pay for raspberries or strawberries during their season.
Another barrier is probably that people just don’t know what to do with them: I mean are they a fruit, a vegetable, or what? The answer is that depending on what the end result will be, ground cherries can be either.
Sliced and mixed with tomatoes they can make a fun addition to a salad, cooked with sugar and pureed, they’re a dessert custard or pie filling. Cooked with a little ginger, spices, a shot of vinegar and pureed, they make a great sweet-sour salsa verde for grilled meat.
I’ve done plenty with ground cherries, but I’ve always wanted to make a pie or something along those lines, which, to my knowledge should be a Mennonite, and or Amish tradition. The first thing I made was a really simple, open faced tart. It’s great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of creme fraiche.
Ground Cherry Tart
- 2 cups whole ground cherries husked, washed and dried
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1.5 cups all purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 stick 4 oz unsalted butter
- Ice water as needed, a tablespoon or two
- Dice the butter then combine with the flour, cinnamon, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Drizzle in the water slowly, pulsing the processor until the dough just comes together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest.
- Roll out the dough between two sheets of lightly floured wax paper, then fit it snugly into a 9 inch pie tin, pressing it lightly into the pan so that it forms to the shape of the pie tin to prevent uneven cooking. Cover the crust with aluminum foil, then weight down with dried beans or other pie weights and cook at 325 for 30 minutes or until the crust is light golden. Remove the crust from the oven and cool.
- In a bowl, mix together the groundcherries, pinch of salt, lemon juice, cornstarch, and sugar, then divide evenly into the par-baked crust. Bake the tart for roughly 25 minutes at 400 degrees, turning the temp down 50 degrees or so if it looks like the edges might get dark, if they do, put some foil over the tart and continue baking.
- After baking, remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool, then cover with plastic wrap and store at room temperature. The tart will keep for a few days. I like to serve it gently warmed.