Ground cherry pie

I can't say I was overly eager to take my first bite of ground cherry pie. Baked this weekend, it still sat carefully wrapped and untouched when I stumbled downstairs for breakfast this morning. The watermelon sorbet had competed for the dessert spot, to be sure.

But at the heart of my neglect was a lingering uncertainty that the tomato-like fruits should be made into pies.

My imagination conjured up the taste of a marinara with whole-wheat crust, more appealing with a dinner fork than a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But with baguettes devoured and watermelon dwindling, my eye settled on it this morning as the perfect answer to breakfast. Feeling courageous, I carefully cut through the lattice and scooped a piece into my bowl.

I noticed immediately the transformation. The once tomatillo-like cherries, after simmering in a bubbling sea of sugar and their own saccharine juices, now appeared more like round bits of candy orange. Soaked in syrup and dripping with shrunken seeds, the tiny mandarin-like pieces looked every bit the part of their cast as pie filling.

I pulled a first bite from my fork, and dug in. A cacophony of pineapple and tomato, cherry and orange erupted inside my mouth, lingering sweet on the tongue and quick to hit the belly. Eager to begin again, I took another bite and then another, devouring the piece in delighted disbelief.

The surprise success made me wish I'd eaten it hot, fresh from the oven with a dab of vanilla ice cream or perhaps a dollop of vanilla whipped cream. It should go within hours: a bowl of shucked cherries, a heap of sugar, a quickly rolled crust and the heat of an oven transforming fruit into delight. Quickly, quickly, the ice cream should melt, just as the sun goes down and a new day begins. Then in the end, it will still be around for a good cold breakfast.


Makes one pie with lattice top, plus some extra crust

Mix 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup all purpose flour in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons chilled butter; mix well with a pastry cutter. Add 4-5 tablespoons ice cold water until the dough forms a ball. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and roll out dough for crust bottom. Cut off edges and set aside for lattice top.

In a separate bowl, mix 2 and 1/2 cups husked ground cherries with 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and 2 and 1/2 tablespoons flour. Mix well and spoon into crust. Top with woven lattice. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes, then turn oven to 300 and continue baking for 30 minutes, or until filling sets without burning crust.


Anonymous said...

I'm one of your devoted Maine readers. Do you think I can get ground cherries in the Midcoast area? I'll ask some of the farmers at my local market -- just wondered if you might have any ideas too. I've never run across them. Thanks for any help you can offer!
~ Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

i, also, am now curious about ground cherries after reading your tempting description! AND, i forwarded your piece to a friend is coming to visit in mid-september and who eats wild food whenever he can. he has put me on the case of finding them to prepare a pie! i don't believe i have ever seen them, either growing wild or available to purchase anywhere. i live in wellfleet, but work on saturdays, so the farmer's markets are not convenient for me....however, if that is where these are, i may ask someone to find them for me....maybe phoenix produce has them? thank you for your time ~ irene

Elspeth Pierson said...

Hi Elizabeth: I get the impression from ground cherries here that the plants are very old-fashioned. I think the farmers' market is definitely your best bet; if they don't have any ideas, ask your friends! From what I gather, these are easy backyard plants...

Irene: I am happy to pick some up for you at the market! I go every Saturday, so let me know if you'd like me to grab you a bag and you can come to my house and pick them up. I haven't seen them at Phoenix, but I wouldn't be surprised if they of Hatch's start stocking them in the next few weeks as the season gets into swing. The only other listings I've found are on Semap here: http://www.farmfresh.org/food/food.php?food=9&show=40&sortby=closeness&startrow=1&zip=02667I but those are all pretty far away, and they don't include the woman, Clare Berg of Bon Terra Nursery, who I buy them from at the market. her number is 237.4297 and i'm sure she'd be happy to sell you some as well.

mudlarke said...

how nice of you to offer to pick me up some ground cherries! if you get this message in time for your shopping trip, please pick up at least enough for a pie, and more would be fine. how best to make contact? sat and sun, 10-4, i can be reached at rock spray nursery, 508.349.5522. otherwise, blog me back!
cheers! irene

Elspeth Pierson said...

Hi Irene:

Unfortunately I did not get your note in time for this week. I will mark it on my calendar, however, to get you enough for a pie next week, and will drop them off on my way to work on either Saturday or Sunday (I work at Blackfish, so I'll be heading by anyways). Sorry about this week!


dianneml said...

For future reference and planting, Clare Bergh of Bon Terra Nursery sells ground cherry plants at the start of the season at the Orleans and Mid-Cape Farmers Markets. I have purchased one plant from her each season and pretty much ignored it to tend to more finicky plants. Nevertheless, the output is quite prodigious. Usually I just eat out of hand, but the other night I made a salsa, which was quite delicious. I look forward to trying your pie recipe, Elspeth.

Stephen said...

My mother's favorite pie was ground cherries. She grew up in south central Wisconsin. I have come to favor it to. Be cautious about ground cherries. If you plant them in your garden they will soon take over the whole garden. If you want to grow your own, they are easy to grow but give them their own space.

Elspeth said...


I haven't planted any yet, but thank you for the good advice. A friend of mine planted them in an old boat in order to keep them contained—and they seem to be crawling out, even from there!

All the best,

Anonymous said...

This post is way after the fact, but I just made this pie and it was delicious. I only had two cups of ground cherries so I chopped up a pear and added it. The flavors are very unique, almost orangy. I'm in south-eastern wisconsin and ground cherries are found all around at local farmers markets. Thanks!

GMA/Mama T said...

I just made our first ground cherry pie with a very similar recipe to yours~"Amazing" was the response of our nearly ten year old granddaughter. Hubby is still out on the vote; but when I mentioned how easy they grow, how NO critter seems to like them and how frugal they can be towards our food bill, he said "yeah, we need to keep this recipe!" :)

Blessings from down south in west Central Florida~
Grandma T


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