Crop Spot: Ground Cherries

Have you ever had a ground cherry? These golden, papery-husked berries pack a flavorful punch. If you can imagine a mixture of a cherry tomato, pineapple, and a grape, you’ll come close to the taste of the unique fruits. Next time you see them at the farmers market, give them a taste! You may also find them under the names “Husk Tomato” and “Sweet Tomatillos”. 

In the Garden 

Ground Cherries are members of the Solanaceae family, alongside Tomatillos and Tomatoes. They are easy and fun to grow! After any chance of frost, it is safe to transplant seedlings outside in soil with good drainage. Starting in late summer, about 70 days after planting, they will begin to produce fruit and will continue until the first frost hits. The husks of the fruit will turn yellow and drop from the plant giving them the name, “ground cherries”. According to Good Housekeeping, these plants can produce up to 300 fruits each, so plan accordingly when planting.

Find Michigan Ground Cherries seeds from Nature and Nurture seeds and Ann Arbor Seed Company.

Photo Credit: Mother Earth News

If you grow them yourself, be sure to only eat ripe fruits. As members of the nightshade family, the sour tasting, unripe cherries can contain small amounts of solanine and solanidine, which can lead to an upset stomach. 

In Storage

These fruits are amazing in terms of storability! Once harvested, these cherries can be stored in their husks in a mesh bag in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months! Husked, rinsed fruits can be refrigerated for about 5 days. Ground cherries can also be frozen for future use. 

In the Medicine Cabinet 

According to Permaculture News, the ground cherry is an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, and B-3 (Niacin). They are also a good source of Vitamins B-1 (Thiamin) and offer Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin) and the minerals non-heme iron, calcium, and phosphorus. 

Interestingly, the University of Michigan Health System is currently studying the link between withanaloids, a chemical compound found in ground cherries, and its anti-cancer properties. Some evidence shows that this compound is particularly effective against Adrenal Cancer and more information about the ongoing research can be found here.

In the Kitchen 

The easiest and most popular way to enjoy these tasty fruits is to peel off the husk and pop it in your mouth! 

Smithsonian Magazine recommended these additional ways to include them in your meals: 

1) Puree them into your salsa verde or chopped salsa with onion, tomatoes or tomatillos, lime, and salt.
2) Bake a ground cherry pie or mix them into a cake or tart
3) Chop them up with some fresh tomatoes and basil for a light appetizer 
4) Make them into a tart jam

How do you like to enjoy ground cherries?

Emma Beauchamp is the Communications Manager for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at [email protected]