by Peggy Paul
This time of year, tomatoes, zucchini and stone fruits are the stars of the farmers market, but don’t forget about these lesser-known gems:
Ground cherries and tomatillos: a.k.a husked fruits
Fruits should be swelled to fit their papery husks, which you remove before eating. These nightshade fruits resemble tomatoes, but have radically different flavors: pop a yellow, jewel-like ground cherry in your mouth, and you’ll find its juicy flavor is sweet, tangy and slightly floral—a mash-up of tomato and pineapple. Green or purple tomatillos have a tart, citrusy flavor used to complement savory dishes. Both have roots in the Americas, the former as a component of the early Native American diet, and the latter an ancient crop first cultivated by the Aztecs in Mexico.
Uses: Chop up the fruit and add it to relishes and salsas, sauté them with sweet onions as a chutney-like topping, or toss them into salads. Ground cherries also make delicious jams, chutneys, tarts, cakes and pies. Tomatillos shine in salsas.
Kohlrabi: a.k.a. German turnip, stem turnip or cabbage turnip
The kohlrabi plant looks like a vegetal alien: a stout bulb with leafy arms protruding in all directions. Like its fellow Brassicas (cabbage, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower), it’s crunchy, sweet and a touch grassy in flavor, like the love child of a mild radish and a broccoli stem. It’s been a staple in Europe and Asia for thousands of years.
Uses: Peel off the tough outer skin. Eat it raw, use it in salads and slaws, or dip it in hummus, tapenade or salsa. Try it in stir-fries and fritters, roast it with eggplant and potatoes, and toss it into soups and stews. If you snag one with its leaves intact, use them as a tasty alternative to collard greens or kale.
Sour Cherries: a.k.a. tart or pie cherries
Sour cherries have a tart flavor and a constitution that holds up to baking better than other sweet, mainstream varieties. They’ve got a short growing season—usually June to July—and are not widely cultivated, as they don’t last long off the tree. However, these pucker-inducing stone fruits have been used for centuries in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. Look for full, plump, bright-red fruits with as few bruises as possible.
Uses: Pit them, chop them up and stir them into your morning bowl of yogurt. Make them an unexpected ingredient in salsa or stew them in maraschino liqueur or brandy (1 cup per pint) and store them in the fridge for cocktail night. Sour cherry soup is a Hungarian classic. Bake them into cakes and pies and tarts and scones, or make cherry ice cream with dark chocolate and almonds. Freeze them to enjoy all year long!
Peggy Paul is a cookbook editor, writer, urban vegetable gardener, produce peddler and author of the blog ThursdayNightPizza.