Hello, I’m relatively new to gardening and recently the ground cherry (cape gooseberry has caught my attention). It says online that ground cherry (not the tropical golden berry sibling) grows in hardiness zones 4-8. I know that ground cherry can be a perennial but when they say hardy to zones 4-8 do they mean that its a perennial from 4-8 or that it can complete its life cycle, seed and regrow the next season in zones 4-8?
I’m not sure what they are referring to in their promotional literature. I have some experience with ground cherries. They are delicious and I love them. Once the seeds are in your soil they will sprout in the spring, like volunteer tomatoes or dill. The problem is that they need a relatively long season to fruit and ripen. So better to start them and transplant them like tomatoes, to which they are related. They don’t like hot weather. They like a certain amount of moisture and 60’s - 70’s much more than 80’s-90’s. I would think San Francisco climate would be ideal. Same soil prep as tomatoes, but they grow more into a low bush. They are not a perennial in a Northern climate.
I’m in zone 5/6. They die here and seed themselves. They get really productive right as they get killed by frost. You are not likely to get a bountiful harvest because they are so small. I like to have them to snack on as I tend the garden. If you pick them slightly underripe, they have a cheese-like flavor that puts some people off. Fully ripe berries have a pineapple flavor that I enjoy.
@Aglevin2 Don’t worry so much about the linage. south American physalis peruviana north american physalis philadelphica or any of the other 70-90 species of ground cherry. zones 8 and below your going to be growing them as annuals.
Physalis by in large need breeding to improve them so its best to buy named cultivars and try them out. Or plant seeds from those sold in the grocerys like LIDL or Wholefoods.
ground cherries will fruit in z4 but its best to start them this time of year to get the most fruit from them. cape gooseberry would need to be started even earlier than that as they take longer to grow and fruit. i have 10 aunt molly’s ground cherry started in my grow room right now.
If you get started now, as Steve suggested, you should be able to get a lot of ground cherries by the end of summer. Note: the cultivar Mary’s Niagara fruits somewhat earlier than the others, and is good for shorter seasons. There are some habit/fruit size differences among P. pruinosa cultivars, but all taste the same and all, when healthy, are productive.
Ground cherries have very few problems (though, being the lucky fellow I am, I encountered one—though seem to have solved it). A golden ripe ground cherry is, to my palate, one of summer’s pleasures. And they make superb pies (one of my favorites!) and preserves as well.
where did you find seeds for mary’s niagara?
Right here, Steve. Baker Creek has had them in the past, too, but I’ve not seem them there lately.
Thank you for all the great info! Have you grown Mary’s niagara before? Online makes it sound too good to be true. Fruits earlier and sets larger/sweeter fruits than other varieties. Im always skeptical about these kinds of things.
Yes, I’ve grown Mary’s Niagara. It does starts ripening a little earlier, which is its chief advantage. Fruit is about average in size. Growth is a little more prostrate than ones like Aunt Molly’s. As far as flavor: tastes just like any other ground cherry—which is to say, pretty darned good! There aren’t many named cultivars; I’ve tried most of them that are commercially available here, and the differences among them, flavor- and fruit size-wise, are not dramatic.
The dozen plants I’ve started this year have no name. They came from seed I saved from a big vigorous volunteer that seemed healthier than the general run.
Very interesting, thank you for your experiences! Out of curiosity, I’ve purchased cossack Pineapple this year (my family members love pineapple which is obviously not an option in my hardiness zone). In your opinion, if youve grown this variety, does it actually have anymore pineapple flavor than any other variety?
I grew it once, years ago, and it tasted like a ground cherry. A well-ripened one of any variety can have pineapple notes.
I’m trying Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry for the first time this year. started them indoors and boy are the seedlings TINY. smaller by far than any of my other seedlings. hoping they survive so I can try them out.
like a tobacco seed they grow really fast. i grew some tobacco to make organic insecticide / fungicide. it grew from a seed the size of a grain of sand to a 7ft. monster in 60 days in a 5 gal pail. insane growth! groundcherries arent that vigorous but close. my aunt mollys are just coming up also. grew a unnamed groundcherry last year from bakers seeds. im hooked! i love pineapple and these tasted very much like them. unfortunitly i started them to late last spring so i only ate a few handfuls before the frosts killed them. will be a different story this year
Here’s an interesting ground cherry that might actually turn out to be a little different—a variety called “Turkish Delight” from the Russian seed company Aelita. I’ve had the seeds in storage since last year, and have just gotten around to germinating some. According to the translation of the seed packet on this site:
Early maturing cold-resistant variety. Fruit ripening occurs 90-95 days after germination. Plants are compact, branching, 30-50 cm high. Fruits are round, weighing 6-12 g. They taste like strawberries with pineapple, sweet and sour, juicy and aromatic. For fresh consumption and preparation of jams, compotes and candied fruits. Dried fruits are used as raisins. Unripe fruits ripen well and are stored throughout the winter. The variety is resistant to pests and diseases, including late blight. Sowing seedlings. They dive in the phase of one or two true leaves. When planting seedlings, the plants are buried to the first true leaf.
Well, they’re already obviously different from the ones I’m used to growing: the cotyledons are rounder and the stems and first true leaves are noticeably more hirsute (the packaging lists them as P. pubescens—so checks out! ). “Turkish Delight” seedling is on the left, more typical ground cherry seedling on right:
I’m assuming that this is a different species. “Aunt Molly’s,” et al., are commmonly designated P. pruinosa, though I’ve also seen them listed as “Physalis pubescens var. integrifolia.” (Frankly, I’m a little confused about cultivated ground cherry taxonomy; if anyone can resolve my confusion, I’d appreciate it much!)
In any case, I’m going to grow these in isolation in order to facilitate seed-saving should they turn out to be worth it.
Wow, I’d read that fully ground cherries were edible (but poisonous when unripe), but it never occurred to me there would be named cultivars. Are the wild ones comparable in flavor? They grow wild as weeds all over my area.
no the wild ones often have an alkaloid untill fully right. There are several cultivars. Also they family is rather large not just peruvinan, pruinosa and ixocarpa, lots of room for improvement
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i grew aunt molly and niagra last year. man are they productive. my 2 yr old niece loves them! plan to put a bunch in raised beds this year and pot a few to give her. these Russian ones sound great!
where did you purchase these seeds? im definitely interested in getting some.
Interesting! I wonder if turkish delight is a physalis peruviana? I find that many sites list ground cherry (physalis pruinosa) and golden berry (physalis peruviana) as the same plant when in fact they’re quite different. In general pruinosa matures earlier at 65-75 days whereas pyruviana matures closer to 90-100 days. Please keep us updated on this one!