I was introduced to these little wonders as pineapple tomatillo, also known by quite a few other names one of which is ground cherries. Many people who enjoy Mexican food have had regular tomatillos, especially in salsas. However, the pineapple tomatillo is very different from the regular one. They both have the same husk and shiny round fruit inside, but after that they are quite different.
First off, the pineapple tomatillo is a little bit bigger than a pea. Second, it has a flavor reminiscent of pineapple when fully ripe. Third, it is ripe when it is yellow.
These little morsels are one of my favorites in the hottest part of the summer. They just don’t quit coming on, no matter what kind of furnace-type weather is thrown at them.
You don’t have to worry about when they’re ripe, because they fall off the plant when ready to eat. You remove the papery covering, just like you do with tomotillos. They can be used in most any dish that you use regular tomatillo, just remember to increase the number you use to match what you’d use in regular sized tomatillos. Also, they’re going to impart a fruity flavor to whatever you use them in. I’ve grown both green and purple large sized tomatillos and really prefer the taste of their smaller relative.
My favorite way to use them is to husk them and then just throw them whole into a salad. Nothing else needs to be done with them. They are delicious raw. Actually I prefer their taste raw, as cooked it becomes kind of muddy and less distinct.
Unfortunately, unless you’ve got a really progressive farmer’s market, the only way you’re going to get to eat any of these is to grow them or have a friend who grows them give you some. Growing them is super simple, at least in our hot, humid climate. Just start the seeds indoors about 4 weeks before the last frost and then transplant them out when the soil is good and warm. They don’t need any special care. They love to grow and are prolific bloomers and producers all the way up until the first hard frost.