Ground cherries

Thu. Apr. 23, 2020

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: Ground cherries

A friend of mine was reminiscing about his grandma’s garden and the abundant ground cherries which she made into jam.  Don’t let the name fool you—ground cherries have very little in common with those juicy red treats we all know.

In fact Ground Cherries [aka husk tomatoes] are part of the nightshade family and are related to tomatillos and Chinese lanterns.

Ground cherry

The marble-sized, orangey fruits have a unique flavor, which is sometimes described as tasting similar to anything from pineapple or cherry to kiwi and tomato, mostly they’re tart.  As you can see from the pictures, there are 2 types of ground cherries.  Virginia Ground Cherry and Clammy Ground Cherry.  The flowers are nearly identical, the leaves are different.

Virginia ground cherry flower
the flowers hang down
Clammy Ground cherry plant – the leaves are larger

They’re called ground cherries because the fruits fall to the ground before they’re ripe beginning in July for most areas and continue up to frost.  The plants grow like tomatoes so you may want to stake them.  One site says to let them ripen with inside their papery shells or husks for about a week until they turn gold.  In the photo below you can see a few lying in the bottom of the container.

ground cherries ripening

Plant seed after all danger of frost is gone.  These annuals reseed themselves, which means they can become invasive which leads me back to my friends grandma’s farm where the plants started to grow wild around her house!

The most popular to plant (and eat) is Physalis pruinosa – Aunt Molly

Five Ways to Eat Ground Cherries

Grandma Ott’s ground cherry jam