One of the most interesting plants we grew this year was undoubtedly the husk tomato. Also know as a ground cherry or a cape gooseberry, husk tomatoes are very similar looking to tomatillos as they have, as the name suggest, a papery husk around them. But unlike tomatillos, they are small, orange in color, and are a very interesting combination of sweet and savory. The variety we planted is called "pineapple," yet I was having a hard time finding "pineapple" in the complex flavor of this quirky little fruit.
This fruit is also super easy to grow, once they were well established, that is. We took great care to weed them and water them the first month or so, and after that, they took care of themselves. The little fruit start off green on the plant, and will slow turn orange, as will the husk, which will dry out, and once totally dry, the fruit will fall onto the ground and it is at this point that they are ready to eat. Early on in the season, so we would get a few hands full, which mostly ended up as snacks while we were doing other things, and would sometimes end up in a salad.
It wasn't until late september that we really saw the plants produce, and produce they did! I believe we got about fifteen pounds. Yes, I know fifteen pounds doesn't sound like a lot, but when we are taking about a fruit the size of a penny that is encapsulated in a lacy, papery husk, fifteen pounds is a ton!
Thank goodness my mother was in town when we harvested all of these, otherwise I would still be husking them. I think she did about 10 pounds on her own! Thanks mom!
The next question was what I should do with all of these, and two things came to mind: to dry them in the oven and to make jam. So, without further ado, here are my recipes for oven dried husk tomatoes and my husk tomato jam.
OVEN DRIED HUSK TOMATOES
1 pound Husk Tomatoes, husked and cleaned
A pinch each of salt, pepper and espelette (a dried chili that is sweet and a little spicy)
1 Tablespoon good olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
Heat your oven to 175, or set it to "warm". Toss the husk tomatoes with the salt, pepper, espelette, thyme, and the olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a non stick cookie sheet and place in the oven for 8 hours, or until dried. Store in the fridge and use for snacks or in salads or wherever your imagination takes you.
Husk Tomato Jam
4 pounds husk tomatoes
2 pounds sugar
1 package pectin
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup of water
Put the husk tomatoes in a thick bottomed pot with the 1 cup of water and bring it to a simmer. Once simmering, use a potato masher to smash the tomatoes to release all the juices, then bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes to cook off some of the water. Add all the sugar at once and return to a boil while stirring, once boiling add the pectin and the lemon juice, boil for a further 10 minutes. This jam won't set very strong with just one pack of pectin, but that's the way I like it. If you want it set more, add two packs pectin. This is great on toast, yoghurt, along side cheese, as a condiment to meats, you name it!