This week I ordered a bunch of mixed cherry tomatoes from my favorite local organic farm and as I was unpacking the crate of tomatoes, I spied a pint of husked groundcherries, looking for all the world like miniature golden tomatillos. I was pleasantly suprised because if I were growing groundcherries, I'd be telling all my chefs that I had them and not just throwing them in with mixed cherry tomatoes. I was also very surprised because I love the tasty little nickel-sized treats.
Groundcherry is the generic name for most of the small fruits of the Physalis genus, excluding the larger ones such as tomatillos/tomates verdes (P. philadelphica). I wasn't sure which ones I had received, not really being well versed in Physalis taxonomy, but once I tasted the caramelized pineapple brûlée custard flavor, I was pretty certain that these little guys are the groundcherries known as Cape Gooseberries (P. peruviana).
These little fruits are extremely versatile. I use them in fruit salads, salsas, cobblers, flambéed over coconut sorbet, in mixed tomato dishes, in trifles, and in dozens of other applications, both sweet and savory.
As versatile as cape gooseberries are, these will no doubt be relegated to that most mundane of uses: the chef snack! Ah, sometimes it's good to be king!