Thursday, August 17, 2017

What the heck is a ground cherry?

Michele K.  Koskinen

What the heck is a ground cherry? The unique very old fruit, ground cherry  (Physalis pruinosa) was introduced as a new plant at this Spring's Master Gardener Plant Sale. Each year I try at least one new vegetable/fruit to grow. I either buy it or start it from seed, and research it before planting. This year for a variety of reasons I did not have the opportunity to do the research and just plopped it in my garden. And, surprise, surprise it is so much fun and the neighborhood children love it to the astonishment of their mothers.

To grow this plant in your garden it needs to be trained to grow in a tomato cage or other support or it needs a lot of room to roam.
The photo shows one plant and it is about 5ft  long tip to tip. 

Water regularly, fertilize when the flowers first appear, and watch the tiny little lanterns grow.

Everyone passing by my garden look at the little lanterns with curiousity. They are growing on an interesting vine inside paper husks. Light in your hand  it looks similar to a tiny tomatillo.
The flavor is curious a blend of  tomato with another flavor. So far the neighbor children have said cherry. Could it be the name? We adults think citrus.

A small fruit it tends to drop to the ground when ripe. I use salt hay as mulch so it lays gently on the hay until harvested every day. Slightly unripened fruit can be picked and will ripen on your counter in an open airy container.
I have read it can be dried and frozen also.

Ripened fruit ready to eat

So how do you use Ground Cherries besides popping them in your mouth and saying yum? Links for salsa, tomato and Cherry salads, pies, tarts with other fruit and a variety of other recipes can be found online. Below is a salsa recipe gleaned from a blog. Links to other recipes are also noted

From farmgirlsdabble blog


yield: 3 TO 4 CUPS OF SALSA


  • 2 c. quartered cherry tomatoes

  • 1 c. halved ground cherries

  • 1/3 c. finely chopped red onion

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 2 T. minced red chili

  • 1/2 c. finely chopped fresh cilantro

  • 3 T. fresh lime juice

  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 tsp. cumin

  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


In a medium bowl, fold together cherry tomatoes, ground cherries, onion, garlic, chili, and cilantro. Drizzle the lime juice and olive oil over the top, folding a couple times to incorporate. Then sprinkle with cumin, salt, and pepper. Fold again to bring it all together. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.
Serve with tortilla chips, or over grilled fish or chicken.

Other recipe inks to explore:

Friday, August 11, 2017

Mad Hatter: A Hybrid Pepper

by Michelle L. Dauberman

Check out this fun 2017 AAS National winner called the mad hatter pepper (Capsicum baccatum).  First you'll notice its distinctive shape and then you'll be wowed and rewarded by its taste.  The consensus being that it's altogether sweet, citrusy and floral though there will be some mild heat as you nibble near the seeds.  This sounds perfectly divine to me if and when you are ready to take a break from the palate scorchers like the Bhut jolokia (aka, the ghost pepper).

These charming peppers were bred for varied North American conditions and the yields are high.  The habit of the plant itself is on the larger side and it is a vigorous grower.  You can expect a mounding, upright habit with a height of 36 – 48” and a width of 36 – 48.”  Like most other vegetables it likes to be exposed to full sun.

You can pick the peppers when they are a mature green or you can wait a bit and let them ripen to red.  If you wait you’ll be rewarded with a sweeter and richer flavor.  Generally speaking it takes 65  70 day to reach its mature green state and 85  90 days to reach its ripe red state.

Given this peppers unique shape and sweeter disposition it would be a fun addition to a children’s vegetable garden!

For more information on peppers check out these PSU Extension links:

Container Grown Peppers

Penn State Extension – Growing Peppers