Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ground Cherries Are All I Can Grow

As I sit here near the end of January, thoughts of spring filter into my head.  I'm looking forward to warmer temperatures and opening up the house.  I realized that I'm not looking forward to planting a garden. It isn't fun anymore.  Our trees have gotten so big we have very few areas that have sun and  we have tried to amend our sandy soil for years but it still isn't very fertile.   I made a decision, I'm not planting any vegetables this year, not even tomatoes.  Between the farmer's markets, friends and family, I get more than enough vegetables and none of the work.  I am going to concentrate on flowers and native plants..  They may look a little messy and not manicured, but the bees and birds love it that way and we should too.  No fertilizer on the yard either.  If it burns up and turns brown as it did last year, then that's how it should be.  I feel so liberated.

For those of you who start seeds this time of year, I have a helpful hint for tomato plants.  If you have a favorite tomato and want to start some plants for the next season, all I do is put the seeds onto a sheet of newspaper.  I spread them out, put them away in a dry location and forget about them.  Although sometimes if the tomato is a hybrid, you may get a very different type.  When the time comes to start the seeds, just get out the newspaper and cut around the seeds.  A lot of seeds can fit on a small piece of newspaper and the drying process makes them stick to the paper.   Plant the seed stuck to the paper by whatever means you use.  I like to plant in a paper/cardboard egg carton.  I punch a hole in each of the twelve sections for drainage, fill each compartment with starting soil, put the piece of paper with the seed, cover with a little more soil and water.  Then when the seedlings are big enough, cut apart the egg carton and plant the whole thing.  No need to disturb the plant.

I do have ground cherries that come up by themselves every year. I have no idea why they grow so well and are so hardy.   I am going to let them take over the garden space this year.  Last year I made ground cherry jam and it was wonderful.

To make the jam, I started out with three cups of ground cherries taken out of their paper husks. It will be the middle of September before they are ready.  You wash them well and them put into a kettle with 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup water and 1 box powdered pectin.

Bring them to a boil and when the ground cherries start to burst,  I put them into the blender with a two of overripe peaches.  There are a lot of seeds in ground cherries and the blending helps break down the seediness.  After they are blended, put them back into the kettle and return to a boil.  Then add three cups of sugar all at once and boil according to pectin package directions, usually 1-3 minutes.

Put in sterilized jars. Screw on lids and invert for 5 minutes then turn over and allow to cool until the  lids POP! That will mean the seal is tight.  I still store them in freezer and take out one jar at a time.
This recipe will make 3 medium jars or 6 small jars of jam.

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