Also known as tomatillo, Chinese lantern, husk tomato and ground cherry, physalis is a round fruit encased in a papery husk. Served hot or cold, fresh or prepared, the small fruit has a subdued sweet and sour flavor. Remove the husk before using the berry.
Since physalis doesn’t need to be cooked before eating, substitute it in other recipes that call for slightly tart fruit. Make a smoothie with equal parts physalis and bananas. Add dates, coconut water, honey and seasonings like cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg, and process until smooth. Quarter physalis and combine with coarsely chopped onion, chopped chiles, crushed garlic and cilantro for salsa verde. Combine halved fruit with fresh tomatoes, basil and feta or goat cheese for a summer salad. Dress it with vinaigrette, or leave it undressed. Add fresh fruit to your Greek yogurt, or simply unwrap the fruit and eat it raw.
Main Dishes and Cocktails
Make an Asian-flavored dressing for pork or poultry by grinding physalis in a food processor and combining it with a sauce made from equal parts sugar and olive oil, chopped chili and fish sauce. Adjust the sweetness or heat to taste. Substitute sage for the chili and fish sauce, and leave out the sugar for a completely savory sauce. For a refreshing summer cocktail, muddle physalis with sugar in a jar with a tight-fitting lid; add lemon juice and ice cubes. Shake vigorously; strain into a glass and add sparkling wine.
Preserves, Marmalade and Jam
You can substitute physalis for almost any fruit in preserves, marmalade, chutney or jam. The ingredients for each are basically the same -- fruit, water, sugar and an acid like lemon juice. Cook the physalis in the water, sugar and lemon juice for about 10 minutes, then store it in sterilized jars. Use large chunks of the fruit for marmalade or chutney, or chop finely for jam or preserves. Add pectin to jam and preserve recipes for a thicker consistency and try adding other fruits or a little sherry. Make a sweet and savory chutney by combining halved physalis with chopped red onion, wine vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, cumin and cayenne.
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Buy premade tart shells, or make your own from pastry cooked in muffin tins. Coat the bottom of each tart shell with melted chocolate. Add custard; top with fresh berries, a glaze made from fruit jam and water, and whipped cream. Or, fold phyllo dough around fresh, clean, husked physalis drizzled with honey or syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg. Bake according to the package directions. Make a double-crust pie with a gooseberry filling sweetened with sugar and spiced with nutmeg. Mix chocolate chips with a tablespoon of shortening and cook over very low heat until the chips melt, stirring frequently. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly; then dip physalis into the mixture.
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Native New Yorker Meg Jernigan stayed in Washington, D.C. after attending the George Washington University, and worked in the tourism industry with the National Park Service for many years. She’s a dedicated foodie with an extensive cookbook collection and years of experience in the kitchen. Jernigan’s recipes have been published online and in magazines like Southern Living.