Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An other kind of cherry and another kind of search engine

First of all, something that will probably interest gardeners. Mr Brown Thumb has tweaked the Google search engine to give us gardeners better search results. For anyone who gets frustrated because commercial sites hog all Google's resources, try this simple alternative. I've used it several times and was please it gave me many alternatives to my searches using the basic Google engine. My Brown Thumb personally reviewed gardening sites and ranked them based on useful information about plants and other related topics. Google for Gardeners can be found by clicking the link.

I added Google for Gardeners to my Google home page by clicking on 'add stuff'' on the upper right of the Google page. When the 'add gadget' page appeared I typed the word gardeners into the search box.

Thank you Mr Brown Thumb for giving us this tool to expand our knowledge and become better gardeners;)


My second topic is about some research on new plants I plan to add to my garden this spring.

Recently I went to a seminar on gardening in my area. One of our TV weathermen, who lectures on bee keeping and gardening, was talking about his recent gardening experiences. Somehow the conversation turned to ground cherries. He told me he loves ground cherry pie and I admitted although I remember hearing about them, I'd never eaten the fruit.

After doing a little research, I decided to add them to my garden next spring.

If you're not familiar with ground cherries or cape gooseberries (
Physalis peruviana), this is what I learned. They are a member of the nightshade family along with tomatoes and peppers. In appearance they look much like their close relative the decorative Chinese lantern (Physalis alkekengi). The fruit is firm with a refreshing flavor sometimes likened to a combination of strawberries, pineapples and tomatoes. The plants are 1-3 feet in height and more upright than a tomato plant. They are grown as annuals in the colder northern zones and perennials in warmer areas.

Usually started from seed they grow and bloom quickly. Once they begin blooming they continue until frost so you will have a long season of fruiting. They require full sun and aren't particular about soil. Keep watered during development and then cut back on water as the fruit matures. You can judge the ripeness as the husk turns brown. Many people wait until the fruit falls from the bush judging this to be the perfect stage for eating. Just remember the birds will be watching too so don't leave them out there very long;)

Ground cherries can be a little bland when eaten raw but make excellent additions to salads, salsa, jams and jellies, and are most often treated like other fruits in pies, cakes and muffins. It is reported this fruit was a favorite of the Amish and Mennonites and I found many of their recipes for ground cherry pie.

Searching google I collected dozens of recipes including cupcakes and
tiny pies in muffin tins,
fruit drinks, custard, and turnovers.

(Photo courtesy Veseys who sells seed)

A simple Amish recipe for pie.

  • 2-1/2 cups ground cherries
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 (9 inch) pie shell
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Wash ground cherries and place in unbaked pie shell. Mix brown sugar and 1 tablespoon flour and sprinkle over cherries. Sprinkle water over top. Mix together 3 tablespoons flour and 3 tablespoons sugar. Cut butter in until crumbly. Top cherry mixture with crumbs.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and continue to bake for 25 minutes until crumbs are golden brown.

Reimer Seeds has seed for sale as does Solan Seeds and Veseys who also have yummy pie recipes. Remember the leaves and stems of the plant may be poisonous. Be careful, especially if you are starting seeds inside (8-weeks before last expected frost). You wouldn't want a child or kitty munching on the seedlings.