When you first go to a farmers’ market, you’re bound to encounter a fruit or vegetable (or a few) that you’ve never seen before, whether it’s a familiar food wearing an unusual color, or a spaceship-shaped squash. The first time I tried a husk cherry was at the Coventry Farmers’ Market in Coventry, Connecticut, where a local vendor was sampling them out to the shoppers around his stand. The man squeezed one of the cherries out of its papery casing and a bright yellow-orange ball fell into my palm. I popped the morsel into my mouth and as soon as my teeth sunk in, it was love at first husk cherry.
“What is this?” I had to know. He told me that it was a husk cherry. I had gone twenty-three years of my life without ever tasting a husk cherry, or even knowing what one was, yet I was immediately addicted. They are mildly sweet, unique and delicate in flavor, with a texture similar to a firm tomato. Some describe their flavor as a pineapple-tomato blend, which is a fair comparison.
Husk cherries are also referred to as husk tomatoes or ground cherries. They’re a well-kept secret, too. Aside from being hidden under tattered papery husks, I’ve never seen them at a grocery store, and they’re not at every farmers’ market. At another local farmers’ market, while specifically hunting for husk cherries, I ran into tomatillos, another fruit with a papery husk, so I asked the tomatillo vendor if he ever grows husk cherries. He smiled wryly at me before confessing that he does grow them, but they never make it to the table because they’re always eaten up so quickly. More than understandable.
Now that I know what they are, I buy them every chance I get. My favorite way to eat them is with herbed chèvre (goat cheese). Of course, I like to add chèvre to most fruits and vegetables, so that might just be me. Have you ever had a husk cherry? What’s your favorite way to eat them? Comment below.