The garden is really starting to take off. I’ve been taking lettuce for sandwiches almost everyday, the tomatoes are starting to either flower or set fruit, and corn is a good foot high. But what I’ve been looking forward to the most has finally happened, a few of the ground cherries have finally ripened. These little guys are relatives of the tomatillo and tomato and a grown in a similar way. They like full sun and good fertile, moist soil. They grew straight up when they were smaller but once They got established in the garden they fell over and started the sprawl. The fruits are little orange berries wrapped in a little papery husk. When fully ripe, the berries fall to the ground and can be gathered from the ground.
While reading about ground cherries, there was a number of references to ground cherries being a staple on Midwest farms. Both of my parents grew up on Iowa diary farms. They visited on their way back from Des Moines a couple of weeks ago and my Mom wanted a tour of he garden. The garden was rather ugly at the time, but it was a nice day so I showed my parents around. When we got to the bed with the ground cherries, all of a sudden my mom seemed to get really excited. She asked “What are those?” “Ground cherries, I decided to try them this year.” She then explained to me how my grandmother used to grow them every year and that you should never pick all of the fruit. That way there will be volunteer ground cherry plants returning every year.
The other day, I was inspecting the plants and I found three small berries and one slightly larger one.
I peeled the husk off of them and decided I had better share these with the wife. She is not nearly as interested in gardening, but she is happy to eat what comes out of the garden. Now like many people out there, neither of us had ever tried these. So we had no idea what to expect and she let me know it. With a mix of both impending disgust and fear on her face she took a small berry from my hand and I took another. We bite it to them at the same time and we both had a wave of relief. Not only were they not disgusting, they set delicious. I think the flavor is truly akin to a cherry. Not a tart cherry but a nice sweet juicy cherry. Plus it doesn’t even have a pit to contend with. Needless to say she quickly grabbed the large berry and popped it in to her mouth leaving me with only the third small one left. I guess she likes them. So the lesson of the day is ground cherries taste like ground, cherries. Good growing everybody.
“Hi Mother Nature, How’s it going?”
“Not bad just had a quick question for you. You know all the rain that you didn’t get last year?”
“Oh yep, that caused a pretty bad drought. A lot of gardens and farm land didn’t do well at all.”
“Oh sorry about that. I actually found all that water and you can have back all at once right now. Here you go.”
That’s what it seems like these days. Nature seemed to misplace all the rain from last year and has now found it and decided to give it all back. So anyone living or working near the Iowa, Cedar or most of the other rivers in Eastern Iowa are pretty worried. There was a thought that the Coralville Reservoir was going to spill over the emergency spillway (something that has only ever happened twice in 1993 and 2008), but the Army Corps of Engineers is now hoping it will stay low enough.
Now its falling maybe a foot.
My house and belongings are in no danger, but there are a lot of businesses, parks and University buildings that may be damaged. Some of which have barely been repaired after the 2008 flood. Luckily the city was much better prepared, sandbags are already in place, as well as other flood mitigation efforts. Just hoping I can still make it to work on Monday. Stay safe everybody and good growing.