Physalis pruinosa (P pruinosa), or ground cherries, are a little-known easy fruit to grow in your home garden with minimal insect and disease problems. It’s no wonder many growers are interested in growing ground cherries from seed and curious about how to grow ground cherries from seed.
These little yellow-orange fruits have a sweet-tart flavor similar to pineapple, with a mild tomato taste in the background. Ground cherries, sometimes known as husk cherries, are Solanaceae plant family members, just like tomatoes. Despite their name, they aren’t connected to the traditional cherry tree.
Ground cherry plants are modest-sized, sprawling shrubs with brilliant green leaves and a serrated edge. Before they ripen, they produce golden blossoms in the summer. Like a tomatillo, their fruits are covered in a paper husk and appear late summer to early October in North and South America.
All About Growing Ground Cherries from Seed
Ground cherries thrive when planted in the spring. They grow as annuals and have only one season to complete their life cycle. Before planting, keep in mind that all parts of the ground cherry plant are harmful to humans and dogs, except for the ripe fruit. Ground cherries are a great way to enjoy delicious fruit.
Planting ground cherries from seed produces bushy vines, which yield hundreds of marble-sized berries during their growing season from midsummer to fall. These delightful small ground cherries are related to cherry tomatoes and tomatillos, but they are different fruits. Tomatillos are a little more tart and are bigger than ground cherries.
When ground cherry fruit ripens, it falls from the plant, earning its name. Many gardeners harvest ground cherries from beneath the bush. Even when completely ripe, these are hard fruits with so few seeds they seem to be seedless.
Learning how to plant ground cherry seeds is a worthy endeavor for all growers, and the outcome is delicious. Provided gardeners understand when to plant ground cherry seed and follow growing instructions for planting ground cherry seeds; these fruits have an excellent success rate.
Types of Ground Cherries
Ground cherries are part of the Physalis genus, including plants with distinctive paper husks such as tomatillos. Despite being referred to as the husk cherry, they are not connected to cherries. Ground cherries come in various shapes and sizes, each with its own set of tasty qualities.
The growth of ground cherry plants is loose and expansive. To save space, many gardeners add a tomato cage and tie their ground cherry plants up with string to encourage vertical growth rather than spread.
How to Plant Ground Cherry Seeds
The first step in finding out how to grow ground cherries from seed is knowing how to plant ground cherry seeds. The best way to grow ground cherries is to first go to the Seed Savers Exchange to get good quality organic seed for growing ground cherries from seed at a reasonable price. The flower seed should be dry and free of mold to plant ground cherries in the home garden or in a pot on the deck.
To grow your ground cherries from seed indoors, plant the ground cherry seeds about 1/4 inch deep in the seed starting mix. Planting the seed in biodegradable seed starting cells, which you later place in your garden without transplanting the sprouting seeds, is advantageous as it avoids disturbing the growing roots.
Similar to when you grow tomatillos from seed inside, maintain a warm atmosphere for the seeds, between 75-85°F, and keep the soil moist, not soggy. The seeds germinate in about two weeks. Keep your seedlings near a bright window and moist soil until your area’s last frost date has passed.
Then, for about a week, bring the ground cherry seedlings outdoors for extended periods to acclimate them to direct sunlight before planting them in your home garden.
How to Grow Ground Cherries from Seed – Care
Deciding where to plant golden berries helps you get a bigger harvest. Ground cherries prefer full sun or at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. They endure some shade but produce fewer fruits. To improve the soil for your ground cherry bushes, use a fertilizer like manure tea.
Spritz the earth around the plants liberally. Ground cherries prefer moist soil and require about an inch of water each week. Plants exposed to dry conditions may shed their blossoms and not produce fruit.
If your area doesn’t get any rain, plan to water at least once a week – and potentially more often if the soil is drying out due to the heat. Cover crops are helpful when growing open pollinated ground cherries.
Ground cherries prefer temperatures between 55-65 ℉ and survive as high as 85 ℉ but are harmed by frost. If your garden is in a colder climate and your ground cherries are endangered by frost before they ripen, use row covers to protect your ground cherry plants.
Harvesting after Growing Ground Cherries
Each ground cherry plant produces about one pound of fallen fruit in late summer and early fall. There’s not need to learn when to pick ground cherries as they fall to the ground when ripe. The husk of a mature ground cherry fruit dries up, turns tan, and drops off the plant.
Some gardeners use containers or fabric under their ground cherry bushes to catch the falling fruits and make harvesting easier. Collect fruit as often as you’re able as fruits left on the ground rot or split open, resulting in spoiled fruit or many unwanted ground cherry seedlings.
Salads, sauces, and other meals made using fresh ground cherries are delicious. These fruits keep in the refrigerator for two weeks or are easily stored in an airtight container and frozen for many months.
Fresh ground cherry has a pineapple-like flavor with vanilla and cherry tomato hints. It’s an unusual combination, yet it works. Because of their sweet taste, they are known as Cossack Pineapple, strawberry tomatoes, husk cherries, and husk tomato.
Growing ground cherries from seed provides a steady supply of ripe fruit. Eat the fruits fresh or in salads, and they also work well in pies, jams, cobblers, or a sauce to drizzle over sweets. Grow ground cherry from seed for a fun and valuable addition to the garden.
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