Recipe: Ground cherry (Physalis) jam

This time last year, I began harvesting piles of ground cherries (also known as cape gooseberries, Physalis ‘Cossack Pineapple’). The tiny fruits grow in a husk, like the tomatillos to which they are related. When the husk turns dry and brittle and the fruits are golden without a hint of green, they’re ripe and ready to eat. They’ll often fall off the bush when they’re ready, which is why they’re called “ground cherries.”

husks and fruit

Ground cherries grow encased in calyces that turn brittle when the fruit is ripe.

The plants grew exponentially in the hot weather and set fruit faster than I could pick it. But, having never grown nor eaten them before–I do love an experiment–I didn’t know what to do with them. I can certainly recommend eating them like popcorn. They’re exceptionally high in vitamin C and make a terrific snack.

ground cherries physalis fruits in bowl

The peeled fruit of ground cherries (Physalis sp.).

Craving variety from eating them out-of-hand, I began experimenting with canning. Appalled by the amounts of sugar most recipes directed me to add, I turned to Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which permits the cook to cut the amount of sugar in the recipe by about half.

I began, logically, with Pomona’s recipe for Ground Cherry Jam but wanted to give it some flair. Taking a cue from recipes I’ve seen combining stone fruits and rich spices (cinnamon plum, vanilla peach, etc.), and inspired by another combination I saw online once but can no longer find, I split open a bag of chai tea (yes, redundant) and dumped the leaves into the pot in Step 5 of Pomona’s recipe, when the fruit is brought to a boil (I added the tea, then the pectin mixture). The leaves and spices were finely ground, but you may break the bag into a ramekin and sift out larger pieces before adding it to the jam, if you wish.

I stirred it well, then proceeded to fill the jars and boil as directed.

physalis jam

The finished product.

It is absolutely delicious; a lovely combination of bright citrus and smoky spice.

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Half baked

Friends, I’m hiding indoors until this heat wave passes.

 
I have much to do in the garden, but it will have to wait. It hasn’t rained in weeks, and the ground is cracked open wide. I miss the summers of my childhood, when it seldom reached 90 degrees and almost every evening, it seemed, brought a soothing, cooling thunderstorm. Lately I’ve been catching the dish-rinsing water in a pan and running outside to relieve the container plants from their exhausted state.
Since I remain indoors, my patio umbrella shades the tomatoes and squash from the midday sun. Providing some shade can help your vegetables struggle through the hottest days and last longer into the season, but keep making succession sowings and keep those plants well mulched and watered.

Talk to you soon, my friends. I need a frosty beverage.

Garden log, 3.11.15

Moved two blueberry bushes today. They’re loaded with buds, so I might have planned the timing of this project a bit better, but I hope this new location will be, um, fruitful.

Moved and divided Christmas ferns yesterday. Amazed at how brilliantly these plants grew with absolutely no help from me. Now they’re in a spot where they’ll get more attention. Can’t wait to see what becomes of them next.

On a walk-around late this afternoon, I spotted this:



Do you know what these wormy little things are? The unfurling leaf buds of Sanguinaria canadensis, also known as bloodroot. One of my very favorite spring epherals. It’s a bit early for them, I think, but I am glad to see them anytime.

Need more seeds?

In case you gardeners in the US haven’t finished ordering your seeds for this year, here’s a tool that might help you sort through your enormous pile of catalogues:

The home page of PickACarrot.com

The home page of PickACarrot.com

PickACarrot.com is a free search tool that compares similar items across a wide array of seed catalogues. It includes a dedicated organic seed search function.

I gave it a quick spin. The search function could use some tweaking: Clicking on the front-page photo link for untreated ‘Hestia’ Brussels sprouts seeds yielded 4849 items, including (on page 485 of the results) heat mats, variegated clivia seeds, and kale. We cannot all be Sergey Brin and Larry Page, I suppose. But the first four results were all ‘Hestia’ untreated seeds, listing the supplying company, the amount and unit price, and when available, the number of seeds per dollar. And the next listings after that were for other varieties of Brussels sprouts. It wasn’t until page 8 of the results that things began to drift off course…first to other kinds of sprouts, then to other brassicas, then all over the map. But who reads through 8 pages of results, anyway?

You can search by scientific or common name. Give it a try.

Seed swap!

Yesterday on GardenChat, we talked about growing tomatoes. (To see the recaps of the Monday night chats, review their archives.) Looking at photos and hearing recommendations from gardeners across the US, Canada, and even a few from the UK, I became ravenous, craving not only fresh tomatoes, but their seeds as well.

My personal seed libraryI’ve participated in seed swaps before but have never hosted one. I don’t know how chaotic it’s going to get. But I’m giving it a try.

Here’s what I’ve got that I can share:

Tomatoes:

  • ‘Yellow Pear’
  • ‘Principe Borghese’
  • ‘Mortgage Lifter’
  • ‘Sophie’s Choice’ (good for short seasons)

Peppers:

  • Jalapeno (how do I put the tilde on top?
  • ‘Corno di Toro-Rosso’ (I think)

Miscellaneous vegetables and herbs:

  • Basil (Genovese)
  • Bush bean ‘Contender’
  • Broccoli ‘DiCicco’
  • Broccoli raab
  • Claytonia
  • Cucumber ‘Arkansas Pickling’

Misc. ornamentals:

If you want any of those, reply to this post and let me know what you’d like. If you have a blog of your own, link to a post showing what you have available to swap. I will leave it to individuals to work out mailing addresses and so forth.

 

By the way, I’m in search of almost any variety of sweet pepper, as well as tomatoes ‘Carbon,’ ‘Black Krim’ (can’t believe I’m out of those seeds!), ‘Black Cherry,’ ‘Paul Robeson,’ and ‘Amy’s Sugar Gem.’

Flower and herb seeds are welcome, too. Please try to make sure you’re sharing fresh, viable seed.

Let the swapping begin!

 

 

 

 

 

Garden log, 2.8.15

Hurrah! Mother Nature says it’s time to plant the peas.

plant your peas copy

It’s important to wait until your soil is adequately warm to plant seeds or transplants. If it’s too cold and damp, the seeds will rot, or germination will be delayed. Don’t ask me how I learned these facts.

I planted ‘Oregon Sugar Pod II’ and ‘Cascadia.’ It’s always dicey, planting peas, because our springs can go from cool to blazing hot in just a couple of weeks. Fall crops tend to perform better, but I try every year for a good spring batch.

Planted some ‘Bloomsdale’ spinach, flat-leaf Italian parsley, and bok choi as well. Hope that harvest looks as good as this one.

Left to right: Arugula, lettuce ('Freckles') and bok choi.

Left to right: Arugula, lettuce (‘Freckles’) and bok choi.

A quick garden postcard: fresh January salad (and recipe)

Lettuce 'Freckles'

Lettuce ‘Freckles’

I peeked under my row cover yesterday to see how the greens are doing. What could be better than a fresh salad from the garden in January?

Lettuce grows quickly. This variety, ‘Freckles,’ can be harvested in 55 days from seed. The critical thing is to ensure it has steady moisture. With our unending rain, that hasn’t been a problem.

I’m going to toss this with a tablespoon each of dried cranberries and pecan pieces. I’ll top it off with some parmesan cheese, and dress it with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. I may throw in a few leaves of fresh thyme.

Try it. You’ll like it.