Ground Cherries- What are They and How to Grow Them

Ground cherries- have you ever heard of them?

If it was August right now and we were standing in my garden, I would hand you one to try and I would probably see your eyes widen in delight as you opened the paper husk and popped the round golden fruit in your mouth.  But since it's February right now, I'll just have to describe them for you.  Imagine pinching open a mini paper lantern and finding inside a yellow berry-like fruit.  The texture is similar to a grape and the flavor is sweet and fruity with hints of candy and pineapple.

Toddlers and preschoolers LOVE them.  They make great snacks and opening the paper husks is like unwrapping little presents.

Strangely, gradeschoolers seem to turn up their nose at them.

But that's just fine because the adults are too addicted to the ground cherries and don't want to share!

Warning: Desires to hoard may occur.  Consult your doctor if these symptoms are accompanied by hiding the fruit or eating it in secret.

What can you make with them?  

Ha- this question is only asked by those who have never tried them.  Ground cherry fans know that it's hard to accumulate enough to make anything since they are usually just inhaled.  But in all seriousness, I have made a ground cherry cobbler, a simple jam/sauce that I spooned over ice cream, and I have friends who made ground cherry jelly.

Why are they called ground cherries?  

When ripe, they fall off the plant and are gathered from the ground.

When should I plant ground cherries?

Ground cherry starts can be transplanted into the garden after the danger of frost is past, which is usually mid May for the Sioux Falls area.

Are they easy to grow? 

Yes, just stick them in the ground and they will grow happily with minimal care. They have no disease problems that I am aware of.

How big are the plants when full grown?  

The plants grow close to the ground and spread out in about a 5 foot diameter circle.

How many plants should you grow?  One plant will probably feed up to two ground cherry lovers.

P.S.  If some of the fruit is left on the ground, they will self seed and grow the next year without any effort on your part!

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