This morning I went out to the garden to pull up some last remaining beets to do a batch of pickled beets. My garden has become a maze with all the vining plants seeking out new ground and tangling around anything in their paths. I stepped over part of my ground cherry plant and saw gobs of its little papered fruit on the ground. I started picking them up and before long I had half a bucket of them.
Last winter when I was planning my garden order from Seed Savers Exchange I saw they were advertising seedlings of this plant called a ground cherry. I had never heard of it before but was intrigued so I added one plant to my order. When it arrived it was teeny and not terribly healthy looking but it perked back up after a few weeks in the ground. It didn't really take off until late July, though, when it spread and spread, reaching it's low-lying branches out in all directions.
This plant is also called a "husk tomato" as the little cherries grow in a paper thin husk like a tomatillo. When the husks grow brown and dry they are ready to harvest. When I removed the husks off of today's harvest, I had a couple cups of cherries.
I put these in a small pot with a cup of sugar and turned the heat on to medium. After a minute or so, I used my potato masher to break the cherries a little to release some of their juices. To this, I also added the juice of a lemon and about a half teaspoon of lemon zest. I let it cook for a couple minutes, then mashed the mixture a little more. Then I added about two tablespoons of dried pectin and turned up the heat to a steady boil. I let it boil about two minutes, until the liquid began to roll off my spoon in big drops instead of a small steady stream.
It made just enough to fill two small jars - one for me and one for my friend Rita. Read her post about ground cherries too!
The final jam had an interesting but wonderful lemony flavor and a unique texture. I left the cherries kind of chunky and they had lots of tiny seeds. The combination was delightfully different from anything else I've made before. I think I may order more ground cherry plants next year!