I love beautiful things. And finding a food that’s both delicious and naturally beautiful gets me ridiculously excited. Especially when it’s a food that I know nothing about.
Last weekend as we were hunting for sweet, ripe tomatoes at St. Lawrence Market’s Saturday farmer’s market (Sadly, I think we missed the boat this year) we came across something even better. Ground cherries.
I stopped to ask what they were and the vendor from Sovereign Farms seemed genuinely excited to tell me about them. And then as soon as he peeled back the delicate papery husk that encases the gorgeous golden fruit, I knew that I was going to fall in love.
And the taste sealed the deal. Biting into the small tomato-like fruit you get a burst of sweetness in your mouth that’s reminiscent of mild grape with a hint of pineapple and of course, tomato. But mostly they’re just fresh-tasting and sweet with a really nice texture that just makes you want to keep peeling back those thin, crunchy, lantern-esque casings and popping more and more into your mouth.
They’re related to tomatillos though completely different when it comes to the flavor. When ripened, ground cherries turn a bright golden yellow and resemble yellow cherry tomatoes. The texture is much softer than the meat of a tomato though and you can definitely taste the relation to tomatoes, but ever so subtly.
I don’t know what Neil and I were thinking only taking home one little pint! It didn’t last long. But when I was thinking about what to do with them and entertaining thoughts of a salad or salsa, I decided in the end that the best way to enjoy our lot was to simply eat them as is. I thought about drizzling them with olive oil and some sea salt, but I didn’t want to overwhelm the natural sweetness.
So I simply sliced them in half, threw them into a bowl and served them up ‘au naturel’. I can see how well they would work in pies or jams and I’m sure we can dream up some savory dishes to incorporate them into in the future, but I don’t know if they would last long enough to find out. I’ve been thinking about eating them raw again ever since.
Getting the chance to discover something new, and learning from the people who actually grow them was so exciting and satisfying. And with ground cherries being so pretty, they inspire taking a moment to appreciate all that nature has to offer. Especially right here in Ontario where so many delightful things are grown by so many lovely people. It may seem crazy or trite to go on an on about something as simple as a fruit, but I kid you not when I say that this tiny little discovery stole my heart.