Ground Cherries, also known as cape gooseberries, are little orange fruit inside an attractive paper wrapper. Fruits fall from the plants when ripe, that’s why they are called Ground Cherries. Other then the shape and size of the fruits they have nothing common with cherries. They are actually a part of the nightshade family like tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant. Ground Cherries have a very unique, delicious tropical taste, very sweet and a bit like pineapples.
How to grow
Ground Cherries require full sun and fairly warm to hot temperature, very much like tomatoes. In Canada the Aunt Molly’s variety is mostly known because it does well in cooler climates and matures faster than other varieties.
Ground Cherries are easy to grow from seed, but need an early start, at least 8 weeks before the last frost day. I actually plan to start them in February just like pepper plants. Seeds are available in most garden stores, or can be ordered from veseys.com. They mature 60-65 days after transplanting.
Ground Cherries have a nice looking plant, so I just place them in my flower garden close to the house, or better in the greenhouse. However, they need a bit of space, about 2 – 3 feet. They grow up to 2 feet tall but do not need support. You can grow them in a pot too, however I have not had much experience or luck with that.
Ground Cherries tend to reseed themselves, in our cold climate though they come up very late.
Storage and use
Ground Cherries store very well, just like tomatoes. They need a dry, dark place. They also ripen after, too. I used the last ones for Christmas! They were a little wrinkly by then but tasted just as good.
Ground Cherries can be used in preserves, pies or over ice cream, or can just be eaten raw. Our favorite is Ground Cherry piroshki.