Husk cherries, ground cherries, golden berries, Cape Gooseberries; these delicate, papery packages go by many different names. Inside each lantern-like husk resides a small fruit with a pleasantly unique flavor - something between a strawberry and a tomato. I tried my first husk cherry while visiting the Queens County Farm Museum booth at the latest New Amsterdam Market. I’d never seen them before and was staring at the bin, trying to figure out what I was looking at when I was offered one to try.
With a little squeeze of the husk, a cherry tomato-looking fruit popped out. It’s not an exaggeration to say the flavor burst into my mouth when I bit down; the husk cherry is firmer than a cherry tomato and really pops when bitten into. Its taste is hard to place and unlike anything I’d had before - sweet and mild with a little bit of tomato-like acid.
I bought a pint to take home and enjoyed snacking on them straight out of the husks. After a little investigation I found besides eating them this way, they can be cut up and tossed in a salad or made into a dessert, such as pie. In fact, I came across this clever recipe for Ground Cherry Cupcake Pies on Yum Yum Vegan’s blog that I’m dying to try; it looks divine. Because of their high pectin content, husk cherries are also good for preserving into jams and jellies.
Since my first sighting, I’ve noticed husk cherries several times again at other markets. I’m sure I’ve walked by them before, focused on something else, and missed a chance to inquire. It’s a lesson to me to keep my eyes – and mind – open to new things because what I’m passing up might just be a sweet discovery, a tiny treasure, to add to my culinary repertoire.