Ground cherries

In last week’s column, at the end of the first paragraph, I stated that folks were calling “Harvey” a 1,000 year storm. When the paper was printed, it stated that it was a $1,000 year storm…don’t you just love how computers make un-needed corrections? I just checked my original copy and it stated exactly what I had written. On Saturday, my daughter-in-law and I had a good laugh about it.
The papers in this area are full of the storm clean up each and every day as surrounding town’s work to repair damage. Each and every story is heartbreaking and they go on and on. Locally, the lines at the gas stations are pretty much back to normal. On Thursday I went with my sister and her daughters to a funeral in Kingsville. The devastation in Refugio and a couple of the other small towns is horrible. At a small strip-center with several small stores the wet, soggy inventory was out in the parking lot and people were clearing more out of the buildings. Several buildings in the town had so much damage that you could not tell what had been there. The DQ was boarded up and so were many other buildings and homes. Many of the homes will never be livable again and I’m talking here about large two-story homes built in the first part of the 20th century. The fire department had a lot of damage and the men were working on it. One street was blocked off and there were military personnel on the street corner with signs stating that water and MREs were available nearby. At a service station, the gas pumps were damaged and leaning various directions and the entire roof of the service bay was on top of them. Signs were down, trees were uprooted, and the damage seemed to be endless.
Now, (noon Sunday), the news channels are focusing on “Irma” and the news coming out of Florida is not good. The news just stated that 1.6 million are without power; the news reports seem to be in high-rise buildings. One reporter even showed how the windows were constructed and some were beginning to crack, but due to the construction would not break, (or at least that is what is supposed to happen, who knows?).
Most of my week after I came home was spent waiting…waiting for telephone repair, waiting for an insurance adjuster, and waiting to hear from my friend who was stranded in Louisiana. After speaking with the owners of the insurance company to find out if I could have the limb removed without being home, that relieved some of the waiting. It is noon on Sunday and the adjuster is on top of the house checking out the damage. He seems to be doing a good job, not just looking at spots, but checking wherever branches could have been also. The phone was finally repaired on Friday, so things are looking up around here.
While my son was in my kitchen Saturday, looking at my calendar, he noticed it had a picture of a strange fruit. We read what the little blurb stated and I thought maybe it would be something different to write about! As you noticed from my headline, it is called “Ground Cherry.” This is not something I have ever seen in the produce section at the grocery store or at a fruit stand, in fact, in reading up on it I was surprised to find that some stores do carry them.
The ground cherry is kin to both the tomato and to the tomatillo. In fact, from the pictures that were shown, it even looks a little bit like the tomatillo in that it has the papery husks that the tomatillo has.
In fact the first sentence of the article I pulled up on Wikipedia reads: “Physalis are herbaceous plants growing to 0.4 to 3 m tall, similar to the common tomato, a plant of the same family, but usually with a stiffer, more upright stem”.
They are planted from seeds, which are available online and according to what I read following a couple of different sites, people have grown them in Austin. The one picture showed a fruit cut in half crosswise and the seeds looked as if they were relatively tiny, much smaller than tomato seeds.
The plants grow in most types of soil and do well in pots or even in poor soil. Moisture is required until fruiting. They are susceptible to many of the same types of pests that tomatoes are, and to many of the same diseases.
Some species are cultivated for their fruit, as not all species bear edible fruit. The typical fruit is similar to a firm tomato and like strawberries or pineapple in flavor and are mildly acidic. The pilgrims used these berries for pies, jams, preserves, etc. They can be eaten fresh and are said to be delicious. The flowers are pale green with a darker center, as well as another variety that has flowers that are pale golden yellow and shaped somewhat like the wild morning glory we are all familiar with. The fruit itself is shown in the pictures as an orange/red color and they are tiny. The one photo showed a hand holding about 15 or 20 fruits and it looked to be less than a cup full. In size the fruit seems to be about the size of a blueberry. One variety seems to be called “Chinese lantern”, and it also is called Pichuberry and Cape gooseberry. The Cape gooseberry is native to the Americas, but is common also in many subtropical areas. It is called Poha in native Hawaiian and the jam and preserves are traditional desserts made from the plants that are native to the Islands.
According to the article, Columbia has a significant economic trade in this fruit.
Some species are grown as ornamental plants. The hardy Physalis alkekengi has edible small fruits, but is grown mainly for the beautiful orange to red husks.
In Chinese medicine, Physalis species are used to treat various conditions, including abscesses, coughs, fevers, and sore throat. Another species, smooth groundcherry (P. subglabrata), is classified as a hallucinogenic plant and is cultivation for anything other than ornamental plants, is outlawed in the state of Louisiana under State Act 159. If you need more information, type “Ground cherry” into your search engine and check with Wikipedia, and then some of the other options. It was fun and some of the photos are great.
Now, when I find some of these berries, I will go back to my sites and give you some of the recipes that were printed for pies and things. Meanwhile, here are a couple of warm weather desserts that don’t require baking!
The following one for Margarita Pie has been printed many times and it is truly a favorite with almost everyone!
Margarita Pie
(Makes 1 pie)
1 Graham cracker pie crust
1 carton (8-oz) whipped topping, thawed (light if desired)
1 package (8-oz) cream cheese (light if desired)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 to 3 envelopes Holland House® Margarita Mix (powdered mix)*
Soften cream cheese to room temperature and then beat with an electric mixer until very smooth, add sugar and Margarita mix and beat until well combined. Thoroughly mix in the whipped topping until totally incorporated and then spoon into crust and smooth top. Freeze for at least 1 to 2 hours. Remove from freezer 15 minutes before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings. *If this is unavailable, 2 packages of lime flavored, unsweetened drink mix works well. (i.e. Kool Aid, Flavor-ade).
Pretzel Crust for Margarita Pie
1½ cups finely crushed pretzel sticks
¼ cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted
Combine crushed pretzel sticks, sugar and butter. Press into a buttered 9-in. pie pan and chill thoroughly.
Turtle Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert
2 boxes ice cream sandwiches (recipes for this generally call for 19 sandwiches, however, the only brand available to me in Devine was Blue Bell and they come in boxes of 12 and are oblong rather than square).
1 jar (12-oz) caramel ice cream topping
1½ cup finely chopped pecans (divided usage)
1 container (12-oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 jar (12-oz) hot fudge sauce, (heat just before serving dessert)
Put one box of ice cream sandwiches in freezer while you make this, getting them out when you have the first layer in the pan.
Place 12 ice cream sandwiches in 9×13 metal pan, cutting one in half to fit corner. Top with ½ jar of caramel topping, and ½ cup pecans, add ½ of whipped topping and repeat layers using remainder of caramel topping, ½ cup pecans and remaining topping. Use last ½ cup pecans on top of the whipped topping. Cover and freeze for at least 1 hour before serving. Cut into 12 to 15 pieces to serve and top each serving with dollop of warmed hot fudge sauce.
Oreo® Cookie Delight with Chocolate Pudding
1 package regular Oreo® cookies
1 package (8-oz) cream cheese, softened
1 large package chocolate instant pudding
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 carton (16-oz) whipped topping, thawed
1 cup powdered sugar
2¾ cup regular milk (not reduced fat or 2%)
Crush the entire package of cookies in a food processor or using a rolling pin and set aside 1 cup for later use.
In a small mixing bowl mix the remaining crumbs with melted butter and spread into the bottom of a 9×13 pan to form a crust.
Make the pudding according to package directions and place in the refrigerator to ‘set’.
Using your mixer beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth, and then mix in half of the whipped topping and powdered sugar. Spread this mixture over the crust; spread pudding over the whipped topping mixture, and then top with the remaining half of the topping mixture. Sprinkle top with reserved crushed cookies. Chill until ready to serve.