Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry
70 days. If you have never eaten a ground cherry, do yourself a favor and try these small, delectable fruits. These juicy, golden morsels are packed with sweet, tropical flavors reminiscent of pineapples. Scrumptious raw or added to smoothies, our customers have also enjoyed ground cherries in jams and pies, or dipped in chocolate and served as a decadent dessert. Ground cherries grow within a paper husk, like a tomatillo, and can be harvested once the husk is brown or when the “cherry” is on the ground. Leave the husk on, and the fruit will store on the counter for extended periods. When planted in fertile soil and full sun, expect vigorous, sprawling plants that produce reliable yields of fruit throughout the growing season. Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry is an Ark of Taste variety, originally from Poland and grown in the United States as early as 1837. NN[[end tab]] [[start tab]]
Growing Instructions (for USDA Zone 5b):
Start ground cherry seeds inside around 4/1. Ideal temperature for germination is 85° (use a heating mat). Days to germination: 5-14. Once leaves appear, grow plants at 72°. Plant seedlings outside late May into fertile garden soil, 18” apart. Stake plants if space is limited. Ground cherries may be susceptible to fungal diseases so practice crop rotation if you have the space - plant ground cherry plants in a spot that has not had any Solanaceae crops (tomato, peppers, eggplant, potatoes) growing there for 4 years.
Ground cherries can be harvested when the papery husk turns from green to tan, the fruit inside turns to golden yellow and the fruit falls off the plant. Fruits store for extended periods with husk left on.
Seed Saving Instructions (for gardeners):
Ground cherries are relatively easy seed-saving crops. They are primarily self-pollinated but may be crossed pollinated by insects when different varieties of ground cherries are planted next to one another. For genetic preservation, ½ mile isolation is ideal. It is best, but not totally necessary, to collect seeds from 6 or more plants. Smash or blend fruit and decant with water to remove pulp. Rinse and dry seeds on a screen.[[end tab]]