I haven’t brought you into my kitchen for a cooking adventure for a while, so we are due.
Last weekend, I was at the Kleefeld Farmers Market and encountered a vendor selling groundcherries! I hadn’t seen these delightful golden orbs since childhood, so I was thrilled and purchased some.
I don’t remember when I first discovered groundcherries. Somehow in my mind, groundcherries are closely tied to my memories of great-grandma Heinrichs. My mom had a large garden. My grandma had a larger garden. And my great-grandmother had an even larger garden, in my memory. I remember being a little overwhelmed because it seemed to me more like a field. Of course, I was small then so I guess I didn’t have very good perspective. Anyhow she must have had groundcherries in there and my mom and grandma must have been talking with her about them that summer day I tagged along.
After that, groundcherries had my attention. Perhaps there were many that I had to process myself, removing the little paper jackets from the cherries, nibbling, and realizing these things are some of the most delicious fruits ever. Realizing those weedy-looking plants in the garden with the tiny paper lanterns were actually the source of these tasty treats. I learned to test the paper. When it was still too soft or too fabric-like, the groundcherry inside would be green and not very good to eat. When it was crispy, it’d contain a pleasingly plump, ripe groundcherry.
The taste is sweet and kind of honey-like yet also a little… green? There’s some kind of taste in there that reminds me of sweet green peas fresh from the garden. Just a note at the back. But the strongest aspect of its flavour is sweet, seedy, honey-like. I wonder if the fact these grow so close to the ground affect the flavour. Are they earthier than other berries, perhaps?
Anyway, back to my farmers market purchase. I did nibble a few groundcherries, reminiscing as I pulled the paper from them, studying their perfect octagon shape. But ultimately, I wanted to make groundcherry jam. My mom made the greatest groundcherry jam in my opinion. So, I went to her place, she showed me the recipe in the Mennonite Treasury, I took a picture, and made some jam from my modest collection of 8 ounces of groundcherries.
The verdict? Well its consistency ended up being a little more like candy than syrup, but the flavour is fully there so I’m not complaining. It takes me back to the farmhouse I grew up in. The toast in the morning. Smell of coffee. The vacuum pump at the milkhouse winding down for the morning as the sun rose. The scent of decaying bright yellow cottonwood leaves. That’s what I was after. I will have to try again. But for now, this is enough.
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