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Tomatillos vs ground cherries

By Penny Stine

I grow tomatillos every year because I like to use them in Mexican cooking. I made Howie pose in front of the plants so you can see how tall the plants are. As you can see, he’s somewhat anxious about his modeling career, hence the laid-back ears.


This year, I’m also growing pineapple tomatillos or ground cherries (I’m pretty sure they’re the same thing) just because I was curious about them.
They’re related to tomatillos, and as you can see, the plants look similar. They’re a little lower to the ground, however. I took this picture a week or two ago, and in that time, the plants have seriously gone bonkers.



They’re much more overgrown and jungle-like.




The little ground cherries seem to grow on the underside of the leaves, which makes them difficult to see. You’re supposed to wait and harvest them after they fall to the ground, and according to one website, it said that the paper-like covering protects them from bugs while they’re sitting on the ground patiently waiting for the gardener to come along and find them.

This is a lie. The first ground cherry I picked from the ground had an earwig inside the outer covering. I haven’t found any earwigs since then, however, so perhaps the covering slows the bugs down a little.

The taste is hard to describe. They don’t taste like tomatillos much at all. They don’t really taste like pineapples or cherries, either. They are sweet, however, and can be eaten raw. They’re supposed to be good in salsa, too.


As you can tell by this pic, they are a lot smaller than tomatillos. I didn’t realize I had any tomatillos that were ready to harvest until I saw these ones lurking under the leaves. Every year, I wonder what else I can do with the tomatillos besides cook them in salsa (or soup, stew, sauce for fish/chicken/pork) and last night, I found a slew of recipes here, although many of them are for soups, stews and sauces for fish,chicken and pork. 

I also found a recipe somewhere else that mentioned a salad with watermelon and raw tomatillos (I think, although I don’t know where it was) and something else that sounded interesting. I'll have to experiment with that. The sweetness of the melon might make up for the tartness of the tomatillos, although I'm not sure. 
I put one of the tomatillos in my grilled veggies, added one to my morning smoothie and put the others in the freezer for canning sometime later, when I have more tomatillos.


I used the ground cherries raw in a cucumber/peach salad. I also added some cilantro and goat cheese. I thought it was pretty tasty.