Friday, March 20, 2009

It's Spring! Time to Start the Ground Cherries

It's official. The first day of Spring. To celebrate I am going to start the ground cherries.Photobucket
Ground Cherries are in the tomato family. The ones we grow in the BCCD Cultural Heritage Gardens have a pineapple/strawberry taste. They are in a paperlike husk and when ripe the husk falls off the plant. That's when you pick them off the ground. Try not to eat them as you are collecting so you have enough for a pie or preserves.
The seeds you see here are from the BCCD Cultural Heritage Gardens.Photobucket
Last Fall Pat and I gathered some ground cherries. When they started to rot we processed the seeds by placing them in water. We let the water get moldy, slimy smelly, then strained and rinsed them. We then dried them and packaged them for our sale. Pat was the patient one who cut out the squares of waxed paper, placed the seeds in the middle, then folded it into nice packets.
I am starting my seeds by presoaking them. It is a good way to give them a head start. Seeds need to soak up water before they can sprout, so by presoaking I can save a few days in the sprouting process.Photobucket
I wash old plastic containers from yogurt, margarine, whatever I have, in the dishwasher to sterlize and then drill 1/4" holes in the bottom for drainage. I add my soil mix which is not potting soil but seed starting mix which you can buy in bags at the local hardware store. I even out the soil, add my seeds then put a light layer of soil on top of the seeds. I set the container in a pan of water till the soil turns dark. That means the soil has absorbed the water and is wet. I then put the container in a plastic bag, seal it up and put it in a warm spot. On top of a refrigerator works great. Keep an eye on them. As soon as they sprout you need to move them to full sunlight or a grow light. Remove the pot from the bag, place in a tray (I use sterilized old Styrofoam or plastic meat trays)and fill with a small puddle of water to keep the pots moist.
That's how I start my tomato and pepper plants too. I use my ground cherries to make a great custard pie. I got the recipe from an old 1800's cookbook I have.

Ground Cherry Pie
2 unbaked pie crusts
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg white
2 1/2 cups scalded milk
2 cups ground cherries

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Mix together eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Stir well. Add the milk
3. Line pie pans with pastry, and brush inside bottom and sides of shell with egg white. Divide custard mixture in half and pour into piecrusts. Put 1 cup of ground cherries on top of each pie.
4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on rack.