Ground Cherries

| 2/17/2015 12:39:00 PM

Tobias WhitakerGround cherries – which go by a number of names: husk tomatoes, cape gooseberries, strawberry tomatoes and, my personal favorite, poha – are a unique nightshade native to the Americas.

We have been growing Aunt Molly ground cherries for a number of years in our family garden. We tend to treat them as an annual here in Zone 6. Though initially we grew starter plants that we purchased from the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, we now plant the heirloom seeds that we saved from those original plants a number of years ago. We begin planting our seeds indoors in early March. It never ceases to amaze me what a healthy and productive plant can emerge from such a tiny seed.

Unripe Ground Cherry 

Unripe ground cherry

As hardy relatives of tomatoes and tomatillos, they produce miniature fruits that are suspended on their branches in green husks that resemble a Chinese lantern. If the fruit is eaten immature, while the husk is still green or yellow, it is similar to a green tomato in taste. The trick is to allow the husk to turn tan or brown, at which point it will fall off the plant to rest on the soil below. I have read a number of descriptions in regards to the flavor of the fruit, which is not much bigger than a blueberry. It has been described as having a pineapple flavor, tasting like vanilla and even mango. It is safe to say it has a unique, sweet taste all its own and is absolutely delicious.

As mentioned earlier when ripe it will fall off of the plant. It will remain perfectly edible for nearly three weeks in its husk. If you remove the husk, you can store it in the refrigerator for another two weeks. An easy method of long-term storage is to simply wash the fruit off, put it on a cookie tray in the freezer and once the fruit is frozen, put it in a ziplock bag until you have need of it.

2/18/2015 7:56:28 AM

Hi Pamela, Thank you for reading and responding. I believe that the Seed Savers Exchange and Fedco Seed both offer ground cherry seed. Sincerely, Tobias

2/17/2015 7:27:19 PM

I'm so glad I read your post. Known as the "Gardener" where I work, someone asked me if I had ever heard of these cherries. I had not. She found a picture online to show me saying her grandmother grew these when she was a little girl. I would love to get my hands on some of these! I live in zone 5 so they would no doubt be a annual here too. Excited to start searching!

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