How to Grow Ground Cherries (aka husk cherry)

Ground cherries are a rare treat. You probably won't find them in your local grocery store, and not many people even know what they are! But they are something you should consider growing at least once.

Here's why -
  • They taste great (grow them once to see if you agree) - like a cross between a pineapple and a plum - with a little bit of cherry tomato mixed in. 
  • They grow easily and produce a ton of fruit.
  • They are not bothered by many pests.
  • They make endless seeds so you can always save seeds for next season.
  • They come in their own individual wrappers and keep well in their wrappers for weeks/months (depending on the storage conditions.
  • They can be eaten raw, made into jams/desserts, or dried.
  • They are rare and provide variety to your diet.
You can easily find seeds on ebay, through rare seed websites, or from seed swaps. I bought my seeds on ebay. I still have many seeds from that initial order and have saved 100s from this season of growing.

The seeds are tiny.
Ground Cherry seeds I saved from this year's harvest
And they grow into tiny seedlings. 

Ground Cherry Seedlings just days after germination
I found the germination and survival rate of the itty bitty seedlings to be quite low. I would recommend overseeding and thinning to get the number of plants you want.

The plants grow slowly at first. They are like tomatoes in that they need heat and are damaged by frost. I started these all outdoors in a small unheated greenhouse.

They grew very slowly:
Young Ground cherry seedlings
Once the weather warmed up, they took off:
Two ground cherry plants - mature

And started loading up with fruit:

When the fruit drops, it's ready to be harvested. Look inside before you eat though because it's important not to eat the fruit when it's green.
No worries if they drop while they are green. They will ripen up on the counter - just like a tomato.
They will not store as long out of their husk, but they will still last awhile and will ripen up just fine.

The seeds are easy to scrape out. You can either mash the whole fruit, add water, and let the pulp float out with the water. Or.... you can cut the fruit in half, squeeze it a bit and let most of the seeds come out. Then you can eat the fruit. That's my preferred method and while you don't capture 100% of the seeds, you don't waste any of the fruit.

Since they drop to the ground, there will be fruit that gets smooshed or stepped on. You can collect the seeds from these or if you live in a warm climate, just let them sprout and grow new plants for you. I live in zone 4, and ground cherries do not overwinter here. They also do not germinate fast enough to be a reliable re-seeder. They are much more productive if you start them inside (like a tomato) and plant when the risk of frost has passed.

I prefer to eat these fresh, but you can also bake them into desserts or make jam. You can also dehydrate them like raisins. Dried out, they taste like raisins with a fig texture (because of all the seeds.) They are good and it's a good way to save them.



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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate all your tips, advice, and well wishes!

Angela

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