These were new to me when I stumbled across them at the Mohawk Valley Produce Auction this week: Ground cherries.
“Ever see these before?” Mervin Byler, one of the auction managers, asked me. I told him no and asked if he had. “Oh yeah,” he replied, as if they were as common as the tomatoes and onions he grows so well. “You should try ground cherry pie.”
They sold for about $3 a quart. I didn’t make a bid, too scared off by the time investment required by removing hundreds of papery husks. But I did manage to sneak a sample, goaded on by a farmstand owner who is never shy about trying everything.
It was unlike any other fruit. It was a little bigger than a large blueberry, with the tight skin of a cherry. But the first taste wasn’t sharp like cherry or berry but very mild, with a unique sweetness, almost like mango. I can see why it would make a great pie. It probably would be ideal for jam.
Something I learned later: They don’t grow on the ground, but rather they fall from their plants when ripe. Hence the name.
If they show up again, I’ll buy them. If nothing else, for snacking at home.