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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Curious Fruits: Sunberries and Ground Cherries

We are always on a quest to grow new fruit. Since we live in a climate with such a short growing season, fruit growing feels challenging. This  year, we planted ground cherries for the second time, and sunberries for the first.

What are these, you may ask?

Probably the more popular of the two is the ground cherry (shown on the right). I remember eating these as a child at Grandpa Lapp's house, though I didn't recall this fruit until reading parts of This Organic Life. In this book, Joan Dye Gussow writes of the papery skin that encloses the fruit, making it perfect for longer storage. The papery-skin thing brought me back to my childhood, scrounging through close-to-the-ground bushes for citrusy treats. Ground cherries are very easy to grow - the plants take off, and the fruits are always in abundance. When the fruit is ripe, the husk becomes golden and drops to the ground (perhaps that is why they are called ground cherries?!). We have several rouge plants growing in what we affectionately call our "dump garden"  - the space where we grow extra vegetable plants, fruits and vegetable plants which we just want to try out, and some perennial herbs.

As for using ground cherries, we mostly eat them fresh (the chickens like them too!). But we also have substituted them for other fruits like cherries or berries in recipes. I've heard ground cherry pie is super yummy, but have yet to make it. Hopefully, I'll find time this summer.

So now, what are sunberries? They are left in the above photo. Leafing through the Seed Savers catalog is one of my favorite winter activities, and I've always been curious to order sunberry seeds. Seed Savers writes, "Sunberry’s fruits are blue, slightly sweet and slightly larger than a pea. Said by its admirers to rival and even surpass blueberries. Truly historic variety." 

We planted one seed this year. It took off! We put the plant in the dump garden, where it has grown exponentially. I picked a significant amount yesterday, and there were plenty more berries to ripen left on the vine. 

We decided to make Sunberry-Ade with the first harvest. It was sweet and slightly tart. The fruits didn't juice exceptionally well though, so I don't predict we'll use our next gathering in the same way. I'm thinking we may dry some for our winter oatmeal. Or perhaps we'll make a "blueberry" pie.

So, have any of you made any stellar recipes with either of the above fruits?

What other unique and exciting fruits have you tried growing? Please share!

Ground cherry plants spilling their fruit everywhere.

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