Ground Cherry (Physalis pruinosa) is a new food crop we experimented with this year. The ground cherry is in the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, etc) and a close relative to the tomatillo. The fruit, which is encased in a paper-like husk, tastes like a cross between a strawberry and a pineapple with sort of a tomato like texture. The fruit can be eaten raw, or used in jams/pies/breads. We ate many raw while working in the garden this year and also made ground cherry jam.
Wait to harvest ground cherries once they have fallen off the plant onto the ground and have turned from green to golden yellow and the husk becomes a papery, straw color
Growing Ground Cherries
The ground cherries were started from seed around 6 weeks before our last expected frost date (April 20th for Zone 6). After they germinated and had established we moved them out to our smallgreenhouse. Like tomatoes, ground cherries require full sun. Ground cherries and tomatillos were both experimental food crops for us this year so we devoted one of our 3′x10′ raised beds to them and planted 2 ground cherries and 2 tomatillos spaced equally down the center of the bed. We didn’t stake either of the two and just let them sprawl on the ground. I’m a firm believer in trying to plant and develop polycultures but this bed didn’t have a very well thought out polyculture design. The ground cherry and tomatillo bed also contained cleome and garden balsam which self seeds all around the garden as well as common marigold, nasturtium, and lemon balm. All of these acted to attracted beneficial pollinators and predators.