Photo by Eisenhut and Mayer Wien via Getty Images
Kat Kinsman
October 03, 2018

I take great comfort in reading doomsday prepper and survival homesteading websites for reasons I don't quite understand. It might be that the folks behind them seem so, y'know, prepared. They've done the research, marshaled their resources, assessed the possibilities, and seem so resolute as a result. While it may take an extreme degree of internalized panic to get to a place where you have an 11-pound can of powdered egg whites and some 25-year-shelf-life freeze-dried roast beef in your bunker (plus having a bunker), when SHTF Day comes , they're the folks I want in my corner.

What'll I do to earn my corner of the fortress? I'm pretty handy with tools and fire and I know how to make wine out of things like corn cobs, but my main value may lay in my stash of ground cherries. Some call them husk cherries, cape gooseberries, ground tomatoes, strawberry tomatoes, or winter cherries, but physalis pruinosa is gangbusters with the end times crowd for a few reasons. Once planted, this fruit tends to re-seed every year, germinates quickly, is prolific throughout its rather long season, and stays fresh for ages in its little paper lantern-like husk. Plus, its taste and texture is incredibly pleasant in a way that, say, a 10-year-old freeze-dried prune slice from a bug-out bag is not.

Though several varieties seem to be most readily available, I'm pretty confident in saying that you'll encounter an orange-yellow or green-yellow orb that's a little smaller than a cherry tomato, but a little firmer. It'll be somewhat reminiscent of said tomato, but with a mellow sweet-tart flavor that you might swear was pineapple if you had your eyes closed and hadn't taste a pineapple since The Incident. Ground cherries are perfect eating when they're ripe and raw—just husk and pop them in your mouth. A recent salad that paired late-summer Sungolds with ground cherries was a revelation to me, but they're also an easy one-to-one swap with cherries or small tomatoes in raw or cooked recipes. Jam, jelly, salsa, pie, cake, tarts, muffins, pickles, sauces, salads—they're all ripe for reinvention with the addition of ground cherries.

Ground cherries are generously packed with seeds, too. Squeeze a few fruit on fertile ground (not too closely together—they tend to sprawl), or let the seeds dry inside. They'll remain viable for up to six years. As, I hope and pray, will we.

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