I had to plant the ground cherries twice before anything came up, and then for a long time, I wasn’t sure whether the plant was a ground cherry or stray tomatillo that had replanted itself from the year before. The plants are related, and both develop fruit inside small paper husks. They look similar early on, but the ground cherry plant never got as tall as the tomatillos.
Between the drought, which delayed the plants’ development, and an early onset of cool whether, which kept them from ripening once we got rain, we got very few ground cherries. I’ll try them again next year if the drought breaks.
In the meantime, I took the few we had and made a dessert compote based on a Food & Wine recipe. I served it over a vanilla custard, but if I were going to do it again, I’d probably pair it with a light cake. The compote overwhelmed the custard a bit.
Ground Cherry and Grand Marnier Compote
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup orange (fresh if you can get it)
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 pints ground cherries
2 grinds of fresh pepper from mill
In a medium saucepan, stir together the water, sugar, orange juice, Grand Marnier and vanilla. Bring to a boil.
Add the ground cherries and simmer over moderately high heat, stirring gently, until the berries are soft. This took me about 10 minutes, although the original recipe said it would only take 5.
Stir in the pepper and let cool to room temperature. Store in refrigerator.