Tutorial on How to Grow and Store Ground Cherries (Physalis pruinosa)

Fruit in Hand. 100 grams of Ground Cherries contain 25 calories. They are rich in phosphorus, vitamin B3 and C. They also contain vitamins A, D, and K.

 

Quick List Tutorial

1.  Start seeds inside 6-7 weeks before last frost date. germination time: two weeks – germination temperature 24-32C  (75-90F

2.  Grow in window with Southern exposure, in hot frame or under florescent lights

3.  Harden off and plant outside 2 weeks after last frost date

4.  Plant 12” (trellised)-24” (sprawling) apart in well drained soil, PH 6.0-6.5, full sun

5.  Do not harvest the fruit green from the plant.  Wait until the husk turns brown and falls from the plant. The fruit will be a yellow/green wait still longer.  The fruit will attain peak ripeness and be a deep yellow after being on the ground for a week or two.

6.  In the fall, cover the plants with a thick tarp or blanket if there is a threat of frost.  The plants will not survive the winter in the North.

7.  After your last harvest, store the fruits in a cool, dry, place under insulation (if the temperature threatens to go below freezing)

8.  See below for saving seeds

Musings and facts for Physalis pruinosa

Ground Cherry, Cerise de Terre, Yellow Husk Cherry, Poha, Cape Gooseberry, Cossack Pineapple Ground Cherry …… there is a good deal of confusion over the species

Ground Cherries don't need polinators to produce fruit since their flowers are perfect but they help feed the bees anyway.

characteristics, botanical classifications and common names for Physalis  species but one thing is for sure, if you like the taste of these ½ – ¾ inch, glossy, golden, globes sheathed in their own thin paper wrapper, you will want to grow them yourself or find someone who does.  Their taste is unique and it is very difficult to describe. The best I’ve come up with is a cross between mango and butterscotch candy.  Most references put their origin in Peru but they have made their way to North America and thrived.  So much so, that the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food classify the Clammy Ground Cherry (Physalis heterophylla) and the Smooth Ground Cherry (Physalis virginiana) as weeds!
Here in the north the plants are annuals while in the south they grow into sprawling perennials More cold tolerant than tomatoes, if protected at night, they will bear until a heavy frost and I am still eating these tasty delights every morning in my breakfast

I am still eating Ground Cherries in my December breakfast of apple, oatmeal and milk

porridge even today, December 9th.  I protected my plants from the early frosts with a heavy tarp and picked my last harvest some time in late October.  Then I stored them in the hayloft of the barn on recycled reed shades.  Reed shades are great for placing all manner of plant materials on for storing and drying since they breathe.  You can often find reed shades tossed out, on the side of the road during Spring and Fall cleanups because of minor flaws.  Now that the weather is starting to dip below freezing, I place a couple of layers of light weight, recycled insulation on top of the ground cherries.  By this time some of them have passed maturity and are starting to get mushy but 60% of them are still plump and firm.

There are hundred of ground cherries stored under these two sheets of insulation.

Both sheets of insulation are recycled, found materials. The top one is foam from inside an old futon and the bottom one is rigid foam from a remodeled house.

The fruits, in their husks, on recycled, reed, shades raised of the floor.

MMmmmmmmmmm.......

The species I grow is Physalis pruinosa.  I  plant them .25 inch deep in flats inside the house 6-7 weeks before my last frost free date.  I keep the covered flats near the ceiling of the kitchen so that they stay warm because the seeds germinate at temperatures ranging from 24- 32C (75-90F).  Ground Cherries are slow to germinate and take about two weeks to emerge.  Once I see their little sprouts, I move them into my hot frame (a cold frame heated with horse manure).

These Beige Lanterns will fall off the plants soon and their fruit will be ready to eat.

You could also grow them inside, until all danger of frost has passed, under florescent lights or in a window with an unobstructed southern exposure.  Harden the plants off and then transplant them into the garden two weeks after your last frost.  Ground Cherries will grow in all kinds of well drained, soils rich in organic material.  The optimal soil PH is between 6-6.5.  They thrive under the heat of full sun.  If you can provide them with a shade free, southern exposure they will grow abundantly.  So abundantly, that their luxurious, downy, heart shaped, foliage will shade out the weeds making them very east to maintain.  My plants grow to 1 foot high and are profusely branching.  Friends have told me of plants growing to 3 feet high in trellises.  Plant them 18 -24 inches apart if you have space to let the plants sprawl or 12 inches apart if you have limited space and want to trellis them.  I did noticed the small, shot gun, pattern of flea beetles damage on my young plants but they were quite mature by the time I transplanted them that so they were able to overcome the damage by their rapid growth.  Other than the flea beetles nothing seemed to bother the plants.
Soon after transplanting the small, yellow, flowers emerge.  The flowers are perfect.  That

Ground Cherry flowers and young fruit in the husk.

means that they have both male and female sex parts and are self pollinating.  Flowers will continue to emerge until the plant dies in the fall.  Following the flowers will be a spring green, papery, husk resembling small Japanese lanterns.  The fruit is inside this husk and is hard and green.  As the fruit matures the husk turns straw colored and the berry turns yellow.  When the fruit is ripe the whole package drops off the plant onto the ground.  Do not eat the berries before they drop from the plant because they can give you an upset stomach.  The fruit may be ripe when it drops from the plant but it is not at its tastiest.  I like to wait a week or two for the berries to deepen in color and fully ripen for the true orgasmic taste.  Once the plants start to drop their fruit you will be rich in ground cherries.  These plants are prolific.  You can harvest hundreds and hundreds of fruit from just half a dozen plants.  I think that one of the reasons Ground Cherries are not main stream is that they are not easy to harvest mechanically.  If you let the sprawl, like I do, you have to gently lift up the branches and scoop the mounds of husks off the ground.

Ground Cherries and Leeks in the fall garden.

With the generous production of the plant you are bound to miss a few berries and be rewarded with volunteers the following year.  Remember what I said at the beginning about Ontario declaring some cultivars to be dangerous weeds!

But a few of the small treasures

This brings me to proliferation.  Each of these berries has at quite a few seeds inside.To save seeds gather some fully ripe fruit and remove the papery husks.  Gently crush the fruit in a bowl until totally blended.  The seeds which are small and slippery should not be harmed by a gently blending.  Add enough water to double the mixture, stir vigorously, and allow the good seeds to settle to the bottom.  Gently pour off the debris and hollow seeds.  Add more water and repeat the process until only clean seeds remain.  Pour the clean seeds through a strainer with holes small enough to prevent the passage of the seeds.  Wipe the bottom of the strainer on a towel to remove as much moisture as possible and dump the seeds onto a glass or in a ceramic dish to dry.

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About thegreenlifefarm

The Green Life Farm welcomes people who are on a path toward sustainability, increased environmental consciousness and mindfulness. We are 80% food self sufficient, off the grid for lighting, have reduced our wastes by 90% and have become more and more producers instead of consumers. The Green Life Farm is a place to meet kindred spirits and experience how it could be to reconnect with people and nature. Our farm is always open to visitors interested in alternative energy, living, thinking, building, husbandry, forestry, cooking and farming. In summer, our place is open to campers. Our names are: Bonnie and Sylvain. Calling 902-665-2084 is best because we are not online, thegreenlifefarm@gmail.com, every day. You are welcome to bring your pet. Be ready to use an outhouse! All visits include harvesting (even in winter), preparing and sharing a meal…and good discussions
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19 Responses to Tutorial on How to Grow and Store Ground Cherries (Physalis pruinosa)

  1. Pingback: Plant Seeds, Bulbs & seedlings for Sale » How to Grow Ground Cherry

  2. Pingback: Physalis | Sweet Apricots

  3. Diana Ryman says:

    Great tutorial! Thank you! I had my first ground cherry last week and am going to try my hand at
    saving seed and planting next spring in Ohio!

  4. Pingback: The Physalis: Naturally Packaged Desserts –

  5. Isabelle P. says:

    Reblogged this on From Goats To Soaps and commented:
    Thanks to the interest shown in Isabelle’s garden, and the ground cherries (cerise de terre) in particular, we thought we’d share some extra information about this terrific plant with you all.

  6. Maggienesium says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for posting this!!! I can’t wait to try them! The farmer’s market doesn’t have them but a few local urban gardeners do and I’ve arranged a trade for some 😀 Butterscotch is one of my favorite things ever, so if it’s anything like that, I know I’ll love them! If there’s a bit more water next year, I’ll try growing them myself.

    • It is such a pleasure to turn people on to these golden, luscious, jewels. Please comment back when you taste them with your impressions. Ground cherries are super easy to grow but like their cousins in the tomato family a bit greedy for water. I would think you could grow one in a 5 gallon container. It would be a beautiful balcony or patio plant to watch grow as all its stages are very aesthetic.

  7. Grey Dove says:

    Reblogged this fantastic piece on http://www.fromgoatstosoaps.wordpress.com. Thank You!!!

  8. I live in WI and started growing ground cherries last year. Will the leftover cherries on the ground from last year, sprout again? If so, when should I see them pop up? I want to have another crop this year but I’m not sure if I should plant more seeds or if the leftover cherries from last year will be sufficient. Any ideas?

    • Ground Cherries are an annual but there are oodles of seeds in the cherries you left on the ground last year and you should have beaucoup volunteers. Just in case, you could start one or two plants inside.

  9. Juanita Wong says:

    Hi! I live in the Northeast and it’s starting to get cold now, with temps near freezing at night and only up to the 50’s during the day. I still have like a hundred cherries on the plant, but they are still a bit green. I see some of the leaves have drooped already due to last night’s cold temperature. Should I try to cover the plants with a light tarp and pick the cherries when they are more yellow? Or should I pick whatever I can now and insulate the cherries indoor and hope they will ripe? Thanks!

    • That’s a difficult call. I would not pick them as they will not ripen. You have two options: one as you mention, the tarp, but this damages the plants and is a pain to do every night. Two, you could pull up the plants and hang them upside down in the barn or your basement, much like you can do with tomato plants when the frost arrives and there are mature tomatoes on the vine that have not ripened yet. This last is what I would opt for. Otherwise, leave them as they are and be prepared for lots of volunteers next year : D

  10. Can I just make them grow indoor?

    • You could start them inside to plant out in the garden or in a container outside but I don’t think they would get enough light as a “House Plant”. They are self pollinated but you would have to shake them gently occasionally if you grow them under a growlight to mimic the wind and disperse some pollen.

  11. Thanks so much for this very informative page …. I live in Central Victoria ( Macedon ) in Australia, and I have just found and bought my first Physalis pruinosa. ( Feb, 2017 )
    Since I bought it, it has continually created new fruit, and as the older ones drop, I quickly place them in a bowl for 2 weeks so I can then eat them.. Soooo Yummy …
    As I have been a gardener all of my life ( now 70 yo and retired ) I am able to propagate most of everything I need for my garden… and this is one plant that I am now definatly looking forward to growing myself…. So wish me luck…..
    I have saved this page to my Desktop, so I may return for a memory boost from time to time…
    Thanks again and I wish you all the best for the future… Larry Davis.. Your new fan in Australia.

    • Hi Larry from Australia,Your summer is almost getting to the end down under so you must be having buckets full of the tiny tasty ones. Physalis are notorious volunteers, So you just need to save one chock full of seeds fruit to start your own next year and be on the look out in the garden next spring so as to not weed out the young sprouts. Check for a photo online to find out what the young leaves look like. Bon Apetite!

  12. One thing the above tutorial doesn’t seem to mention is, what type of fertilizer ( if any ) does this plant require..??
    We recycle all of our household wasts and have a regular supply of chook poo from our girls..But I don’t wnat to start giving the soil something that it doesn’t like… I mainly feed all of my garden with Seaweed or Fish Emulsion…… and then give back some rotted down compost when I turn the soil over on and annual basis….

    • Hi Larry, I have found that ground cherries can grow in many different types of soil. What you are doing sounds grand. They are in the tomato family so rich is good. I don’t think you can over fertilize them 😉

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