Ground Cherries 2011

Some of you may recall my attempt to grow Ground Cherries (Physalis sp) last season (see “Ground Cherries“). It was definitely a long shot given how late in the season I got started, but I gave it the ol’ college try anyway! I ended up getting pretty close to having ripe fruit by the end of the season, but the plants were killed by frost before they could provide me with a tasty harvest.

This year I vowed to get the ball rolling a lot earlier, and to really put a serious effort into producing an abundance of these tasty little “cherries” (actually a close relative of tomatoes). Aside from getting the seeds started many weeks prior to my starting point last year, I also decided to give them a lot more room to spread out in. Last year they for forced to grow sad little container (actually the top of one of those enclosed kitty litter boxes – haha), but this year I reserved my big wooden “tomato/potato boxes” (of previous seasons) for them, and have been pampering them all the way along.

I am happy to report that they are well on their way towards producing a crop of ground cherries. As you can see in the picture below, many flowers have already turned into the husks in which the fruit grows – so I’m probably about 2 months ahead of where I was last year!

The only thing I’ve given these plants in the way of “fertilizer” is screened vermicompost (one of the boxes has however also received some rock dust as a bit of an experiment), and it really seems to be working well. Can only imagine what would happen if we actually got some rain!
(Ok, ok – I’ll stop complaining about the drought!)

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    • Andres
    • July 21, 2011

    they look like tomatillos…

  1. Yep – Ground Cherries are even more closely related to tomatillos than tomatoes. The fruit is yellow and sweeter than tomatillos though.

    • Jennifer
    • July 22, 2011

    I didn’t know what they were until last summer either. My Mom found some plants at the flea market. Said her Grandmother grew them and made jelly with them. I just love the taste. Great-grandmas just came up every year so we let the last ones go to seed but haven’t seen any plants that we know of yet. Unfortunately we have a weed in the south(NC) that looks a lot like the Ground Cherry plant and they may have gotten pulled up early in the season.

    Are the boxes yours are in just made from plywood? I like the size.

  2. Hi Jennifer,
    Not sure if this is what you’re thinking of, but Chinese Lantern plants (another close relative of Ground Cherries) have basically become weeds on my property and they DO look similar.

    The containers are indeed very basic plywood boxes. They’ve worked well as nice mini raised beds these past few years. I originally grabbed them from someone else who was going to throw them out and they were used as worm beds for a period of time before using them for gardening. Surprisingly, the bottoms still haven’t completely rotted out!

  3. We got an apparent ground cherry that grows in the wild.But i’m not the best at identifying plant specie.I think Chinese lanterns turn red.These turn brown with a yellow looking cherry.However i’m not gonna be eating one.Better to order the real deal.I saw someone a long time ago post a video on survival that said eat what the birds eat.We got some purple berries that birds eat,that will kill people.Better to order the real deal! I’ll post some pictures next year.Ours are already done for the year.Some of these are also called goose berries.You don’t want to eat them green.They supposedly contain the same toxins as green potatoes.

    • Paul Dass
    • August 29, 2011

    It is very interesting plant, but how do I differentiate between the ground cherry and Chinese lantern plant. Is the chinese lantern fruit also edible ?

    • Bentley
    • August 29, 2011

    Hi Paul,
    The ground cherry has thicker, juicier (for lack of a better word) stems – whereas the Chinese lantern seems a lot more tough and weed-like (they pop up all over my property and drive me bonkers). The ground cherry husks also don’t turn bright orange the way the Chinese lantern husks do.
    Not really sure if the latter is edible – I suspect it’s at least unpalatable (if not poisonous), but could be wrong.

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