Got ground cherries, fennel, and other perplexing produce in your community-supported agriculture (CSA) share? We went straight to the pros for preparation tips.
“Ground cherries are the baby cousin of tomatoes,” says Brittney Rooney of Beaverland Farms, a 2-acre urban farm in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood. They like warm weather, so harvest time is around mid- to late July. “Once their hulls turn brown or they fall off the plant, you know they’re ready to eat. I believe they got the name ‘ground cherry’ because once they’re on the ground, you know they’re ripe.” While the Beaverland farmers like to eat ground cherries raw as a snack, it also makes for a sweet dessert. “The texture of a ground cherry is somewhere between a cherry tomato and grape. I think they have a more tropical flavor to them, slightly acidic but slightly sweet. When they’re fully ripe,
I think they taste a bit like pineapple,” Rooney says.
Seth Schmiedeknecht and Caroline Wright, of Good Neighbor Farm, met working with an agriculture nonprofit in West Virginia in 2015. “That encounter with farming was the beginning of our journey into agriculture, and we only fell more in love with it from there,” says Wright, who grew up in Ann Arbor. “After being away for nearly 10 years, [I] was eager to return home. We caught wind of an opportunity to lease land through Ann Arbor Township, so we sent in a proposal and were approved. We are so grateful for the opportunity to farm in Ann Arbor.” Wright says her favorite way to cook mini fennel is with onions. “I slice both up into thin strips and saute them until both are caramelized. The flavors complement each other and, I think, make both more delicious! You can add this mixture to a salad, to top off burgers, or my favorite … pizza.”
Karen Troshynski-Thomas and her family moved to Oakland Township from Rochester in 2017. She started Taproot Farm the following spring. Troshynski-Thomas grows a variety of vegetables, beginning in the spring with Asian greens, arugula, spinach, lettuce, radish, and scapes. Zucchini and cucumber come later, along with beans, eggplant, and eventually peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos. Tomatillos, a green fruit similar in shape to a tomato and native to Mexico, are less familiar to some of Taproot Farm’s CSA members, Troshynski-Thomas says. “I have never eaten them raw,” she says. “I always cook them on the stovetop for salsa verde, which I use as both a salsa and the basis for slow-cooked beef tacos.”
Tomatillo Salsa Recipe
Courtesy of Taproot Farm, adapted from the book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
1 pound tomatillos, washed and husked
2 chilies, quartered and seeds removed (Troshynski-Thomas prefers aji chinchi, a small yellow pepper, for color but any chili will do)
1 small red onion, sliced
1/8 cup cilantro
¼-½ teaspoon salt
Place tomatillos in a medium saucepan and cover with water.
Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Cook just until the tomatillos are a dull green. Drain and leave in pan. Add chilies, onion, and cilantro and use an immersion blender to puree. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and taste. Add additional salt if needed.
This salsa can be frozen in flattened plastic bags for the winter. Troshynski-Thomas uses this as a regular salsa for chips and also adds it to a slow-cooked cut of beef or chicken for tacos or enchiladas.
This story is from the August 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.