About a month ago, I was inspecting my herb garden and noticed some little green plants that looked vaguely familiar. My fingers itched to yank them out because they WERE NOT HERBS and therefore, DID NOT BELONG.
The capital letters are intended to get the attention of my husband because those green plants BELONG TO HIM. Of course, he knows this, but I just like to rub it in because he has his very own self-described “Man’s Garden” just a few feet away from the herb garden.
What are the little green plants? Ground cherries. Yep, ground cherries…not to be confused in any way with sweet or sour red cherries that grow on trees. Ground cherries are green and each is in a tissue papery husk that looks like a tiny lantern. When they’re ripe, they are yellow, or sort of golden. Never heard of them? Don’t feel bad. Neither had I until I met my husband…kind of like I’d never heard of ham loaf or pan haus (pronounced pawn hawce) — a sort of cornmeal pudding. Of course, he’d never had chiao tzu (jowdza or steamed dumplings if you frequent Chinese restaurants) until he met me. But I digress.
Here’s the thing: The aforementioned little green plants did not originate in the Man’s Garden. Technically, they originated in a woman’s garden, because they were grown in large quantity in my husband’s grandmother’s garden on Columbus Grove Road. The ground cherries he grows are from seeds gleaned from his parents’ garden. His parents got their seeds from Grandma Susan’s garden. Today’s popular “heirloom seeds” have NOTHING on Grandma Susan’s hand-me-downs.
Oddly, a few years ago, the hubs created his very own little “ground cherry” garden behind the A-frame playhouse/tool shed. Then they disappeared and reappeared in an old wooden flower box CLEAR across the yard.
This year, these little guys weaseled their way into my herb garden…sort of in the same way that someone’s morning glories tend to invade the herb garden, and the perennial gardens, and the vegetable garden — which, by the way, died a slow death in July’s heat.
Ground cherries, according to my husband and youngest daughter, are absolutely scrumptious when made into a pie. Actually, Anne would eat them right out of the garden which is probably why there were never enough of them for a pie if Fred didn’t keep an eye on her. While the rest of her college roommates’ parents would send them boxes of cookies, Anne would receive containers of ground cherries.
Apparently, ground cherries were used by both Native Americans and pioneers, probably in part, because they keep so long when left in the husk. Some people compare them to gooseberries, but my husband would disagree, because he insists that they taste like “NOTHING IN THE WORLD.” Actually, what he really said was:
“There’s nothing in the world like ground cherry pie. The closest thing might be a Nickel Plate Berkshire steam locomotive roaring down the tracks.”
This probably only makes sense if you really like pie AND trains. Obviously, he does.
His Aunt Ada actually froze and canned ground cherries, so she’d have pies all year around. Sadly, he can only manage them when the ripen in September or October. Here’s Aunt Ada’s recipe.
Ground Cherry Pie
3 cups ground cherries
2/3 cup sugar
2 round tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Mash and cook the ingredients on the stove until the mix boils.
Place in a small pie shell (not deep dish).
Place a crust on top.
Bake 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, Aunt Ada never told him the temperature. He’s used 350 degrees.