Monday, April 11, 2011

Ground Cherries

My kids have inspired me to try new things in the garden.  When they're deciding what to plant in their plot, they choose based on looks, taste, interest and uniqueness.  They're not bound to traditional crops and planting what's recommended or what anyone else thinks you should plant in the garden.

Their experimenting led me to discover that we actually like beets, that we can grow celery in our garden, that Stevia is very sweet and that it's OK to just have 3 potato plants (versus a huge plot to ensure you have enough potatoes to last all winter).

So, this year, I'm experimenting with ground cherries.  I first discovered these tasty little gems as a garnish on a dessert plate at some fancy gala dinner.   This spring, I discovered them in a seed catalog.  I found out they're an heirloom plant, a relative of tomatoes and relatively easy to plant in Manitoba.

This gorgeous picture is from Confections of a Sweet Tooth.  Steph has some recipes for ground cherries (she calls them Cape Gooseberries) that I'm looking forward to trying this summer.

I bought a pack of Aunt Molly's Heirloom Ground Cherry from Heritage Harvest Seeds.  Here's what they say about it:
"An old Polish heirloom that has a pineapple citrus like flavor. When the fruit are ripe they drop to the ground and are enclosed in a papery husk like tomatillos are. The fruit can store for up to a month in there husks and can be used for pies, preserves or fruit salads."

As for growing tips, here's what I've managed to find out:

Start Indoors: about 10 weeks before you plan to transplant them outdoors 
Germination Time: 10-12 days
Days to Maturity: 70
Depth of seed: 1/4"
Plant spacing: 24-36"
Mature Plant Size: 18" high, 24" wide

Other tips:
  • a warm season crop, so don't put outside until all danger of frost is gone
  • treat like tomato or pepper plants 
  • do not need staking
  • prefers full sun and can't tolerate frost
  • prolific, sprawling plant - a plant may produce up to 300 cherries
  • mature fruit drops to ground in papery husk
  • fruit stores well for up to 4 weeks
  • do not eat green/unripened cherries as they contain solanin, the same thing in green potatoes
  • self seeds
  • putting a black weed barrier around the base of the plant makes collecting dropped, ripe fruit easier and keeps it cleaner
  • can be grown in a container

1 comment:

James Mann said...

Love hearing that kids are getting involved in home gardening. It was my memories of helping my parents garden way back in the 60s.

I am growing ground cherries this year for the first time. For me it was the picture that attracted me as I've never seen a real one or tasted one but I'm excited, just like I would get all those years ago.