How To Grow Ground Cherry Plants

I got my seed order from Baker Creek today. I’m SO EXCITED! It makes me wish it was Spring again already.

I ordered a bunch of heirloom seeds that I’m anxious to try this year, but there are a couple of varieties in particular that I’m just dying to plant! The Ground Cherry is one of them.

Ground Cherries (also known as Strawberry Husk Tomatoes) grow like tomatoes, and have a papery husk like a Tomatillo. But unlike a tomato their fruits are very sweet and tart, and are actually used for pies and jams. It is said that the Pilgrims used Ground Cherries in their cooking.

Start these seeds indoors 4-8 weeks before the last Spring frost, and transplant outdoors into well draining soil. Raised beds are ideal.

Ground Cherries are like tomatoes in that they grow roots along their stem, so plant them deeply to encourage strong roots- be sure to leave about 3 sets of leaves above the soil line.

Set plants 3 ft. apart in rows at least 3 feet apart. They like compost and light mulch. A small cage to keep them upright is helpful.

Ground Cherries are prone to dropping their fruit before it has had a chance to ripen. When this happens, collect the fruits and store them in their husks for about a week.

When their color has changed from a pale yellow to a more golden color, they are ready to eat. Ground Cherries can be stored for up to 3 months- keep them in their husks in a mesh bag, and maintain a cool temperature of about 50*.

These fruits can be stored in the fridge out of their papery wrappers for about a week. They can also be frozen. Simply husk and wash them, then place the dried-off fruits in a freezer bag to store.

Here’s a Master’s Tip from Organic Gardening.com:

Suppress weeds and make harvesting easier by growing ground cherries on landscape fabric. Before planting, spread the cloth over the bed and secure with landscaping pins. Then cut holes into the fabric and plant seedlings.

I also found this old Mennonite recipe for Ground Cherry Pie that I’m anxious to try if my plants do well.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups ground cherries
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water
1 (9 inch) pie shell
 
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Directions:

1.Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
2.Wash ground cherries and place in unbaked pie shell. Mix brown sugar and 1 tablespoon flour and sprinkle over cherries. Sprinkle water over top. Mix together 3 tablespoons flour and 3 tablespoons sugar. Cut butter in until crumbly. Top cherry mixture with crumbs.
3.Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and continue to bake for 25 minutes.

Have you ever grown or tasted Ground Cherry? I’d love to hear your experience, or recipes if you have any!

16 thoughts on “How To Grow Ground Cherry Plants”

  1. To Laurie B and whoever else is curious about if the chinese lantern is edible. Answer:It is edible but just make sure they are ripe and when they are ripe they are red colors unlike the ground cherry.Which, they are orange instead of red fruit.

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  2. Kendra/Kassandra, I looked up the Chinese Lantern Tree online, and it looks similar on the outside, but some of the other charachteristics, like how it blooms, looks when it dries, etc., don’t seem to match.

    I’ll bring it into the local garden store and let you know what I found out, and maybe send a pic. From your pic, they look identical, save for the color….

    Reply
  3. I have grown some before and know several people that grow them every year. No one I know cages them. They let them sprawl on the ground, which is why they are called ground cherries, I always though. They can be invasive, too. The like to take over and will sometimes come back the next year if they are in really fertile soil.

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  4. @ Laurie B. tha plant you describe sounds like a Chinese Lantern. I’m not completly sure if it is edible, I’ve only seen it used as ornimental.

    and to Kendra. Ground Cherries were my favorite growing up, I never thought about cooking with them because I alway ate them all. 😀 These will be in my garden someday.

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  5. Kendra, we’ve got a similar looking plant on our new homestead, but they’re orangish/reddish. The old owners didn’t have any idea what they are or if they’re edible. Any ideas/thoughts?

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  6. I planted these this year after finding this recipe last fall. Ground Cherry Lemon Jelly that I found on commonsensehome’s blog page

    She said it tastes like an old fashioned lemon drop. I really wanted to make it. The plants are easy to grow and the fruits are really tasty if you wait till they turn the gold color, otherwise they are a bit tart.
    The one thing I wanted to share was that if you plan to make jelly or jam from them you need to remember that they are like tomatoes and like tomatoes they don’t all ripen at once. So while we had plenty to snack on all summer I never actually had enough ripe all at once to make the jelly. I only had 4 plants. I still want to try the jelly so next summer I am planning on at least a dozen plants so that I can at least get a small batch of the jelly.

    Reply
  7. I had never heard of ground cherries until we lived in ND a few years ago. Our friends had grown up eating them and planted them in their garden. While they LOVED them, for me they were an acquired taste. (I like them before they get very ripe.) My husband still does not care for them but my son gobbles them up. I think, for him, it is just so much fun to find the ripe ones and open the little wrappers that he would eat them no matter how they tasted!
    And, word of caution, our friends only had to plant them once. The following seasons they got more than they could eat from “volunteers”.
    Keep that in mind when planting!

    Reply
  8. my daughter grew some this year in a pot and they were the neatest thing! they are yummy, and easy to grow, and those funny little wrappers they are in! no one I knew had ever seen or heard of them before, and they liked them too. we’re looking forward to planting them again next year.

    Reply
    • LindaG,

      I’ve read that they do grow wild by roadsides and such. But there are dozens of varieties of this type of plant, so make sure you positively identify it before eating any. Definitely try to find out if they’re safe to eat, it would be awesome if you have some wild growing there that you can forage!!

      Reply
  9. They look not exactly but very much like what my mother calls Cape Gooseberries. In which case, yum! I grew some a few years ago and they were super easy – the grasshoppers liked the leaves, though.

    Reply

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