Husky Edibles – Tomatillos & Ground Cherries

Tomatillos and ground cherries both belong to the nightshade family, and although they taste very different, they look very similar. Both fruits grow like paper lanterns, enclosed in an inedible husk. Tomatillos are medium sized, while ground cherries produce a cherry-sized fruit and closely resemble their distant relative, the cape gooseberry.

Even though tomatillos are sometimes called “green tomatoes,” they should not be confused with green, unripe tomatoes (tomatoes are in the same family, but a different genus). Purple and red varieties often have a slight sweetness, unlike the green and yellow varieties commonly used in Latin cuisine (salsa verde), and are therefore somewhat more suitable for fruit-like uses such as jams and preserves. Another characteristic is that they tend to have a sappy sticky coating on the fruit, which can be easily washed off.

Ground cherries are commonly grown for snacking, as they are bite-sized and taste like a mix between a pineapple and a tomato: sweet and citrusy. If you’ve never tried one, you’re missing out! They grow laterally, sprawling out like a ground cover, and the fruit grows from bright yellow flowers that blossom on the undersides of the plant stems.

How do you know when they are ready to harvest?
For tomatillos, the husk will turn brown, and the fruit can be several colors when ripe, including yellow, red, green, or even purple depending on the variety. Usually the fruit will bust right through the husk, and that is when you can tell that it is ready to harvest. You can just twist the fruit right off the vine at this point.

Ripe purple tomatillo, ready to harvest.

Ripe purple tomatillo, ready to harvest.

Ground cherries make it very simple- they fall on the ground when they are ripe. The husk will turn yellow-ish brown and will have a dry, papery texture.

Ripe ground cherry, ready to eat!

Ripe ground cherry, ready to eat!

How do you store them?
Simply gather them up and keep them at room temperature in a basket without removing their husks. Tomatillos will last for up to two weeks this way. Ground cherries will stay fresh for up to three months if placed in a mesh bag and kept in a cool, dry place. They actually get sweeter the longer they sit after harvesting!

How do you cook them?
The husk is inedible, so remove it before eating. Tomatillos will have a sticky coating, so you will need to wash them under water to remove the residue.

Tomatillos contain a pectin-like substance and can be used to thicken soups or sauces when cooked. They can also be sliced and added to salads or fresh salsas. When slicing, use a serrated knife to easily cut through the skin without bruising.

Ground cherries are best popped straight out of the husk and into your mouth. You can also turn them it a jam, chop them up and throw them in a salsa or a salad, or add them to muffins or pancakes.


Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)
makes about 2 cups

1 pound fresh tomatillos (about 8-10 ripe tomatillos)
2 serrano peppers (if you like heat) *optional- if you want mild salsa, use 1 large bell pepper
2 jalapenos
1 medium sweet onion
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
¼ – ½ cup fresh cilantro (depending on how much you like cilantro)
¼ cup fresh lemon basil
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
Preheat broiler.

Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse under warm water to remove stickiness. Remove skin from onion, and cut into 4 wedges. Place fresh tomatillos, serranos (or bell pepper), jalapenos, onion, and garlic (with skin on) on rack of a broiler pan 1 to 2 inches from heat. (If you don’t have a broiler, you can roast them on a foil-covered sheet pan in a 400 degree oven. It will take longer to roast this way). Broil, turning once, until tomatillos are softened and slightly charred, about 10-20 minutes.

Peel garlic, and rub the charred skin off the peppers. Pull off tops of chiles and jalapenos and take out the seeds (leaving just a few for heat).

Place all of the ingredients (including the remaining cilantro, basil, salt, and lime juice) in a blender, and puree until desired consistency. Enjoy as a condiment atop grilled or roasted meat, or as a salsa with chips.


Ground Cherry-Pineapple Crumble
Serves 6-8

3 cups ground cherries, halved
3 cups fresh pineapple chunks (cut into 1-inch pieces)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup blanched almonds
¼ cup unsalted butter, cold
¼ cup all purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar

In a medium sized bowl, combine ground cherries and fresh pineapple chunks with granulated sugar. Spread in an 8” square or round baking pan.

In a food processor, pulse blanched almonds until coarsely chopped, and then add unsalted butter, flour, and brown sugar. Pulse until pea-sized pieces of butter remain, careful not to over mix; then spread over the fruit.

Bake at 375°F or 30 to 40 minutes, or until bubbling and golden. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Recipe courtesy of