Ground Cherry (Cape Gooseberry)

Ground cherries, also known as husk cherries or Physalis pruinosa, are a delightful fruit that can add a unique touch to your garden. Native to the Americas, ground cherries have a distinct flavor that is both sweet and tart, similar to a mix of pineapple, strawberry, and tomato. These small, golden fruits are encased in papery husks, which add an element of intrigue to their appearance. In this article, we will guide you through the process of growing ground cherries in your garden, from planting to harvesting, so you can enjoy these delectable treats straight from your backyard.

How To Grow

Choosing the Right Location: Ground cherries thrive in full sun, so select a location in your garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. They prefer well-drained soil, rich in organic matter. If your soil is heavy or clayey, consider amending it with compost to improve drainage. Starting Seeds or Transplants: Ground cherries can be grown from seeds or transplants. If starting from seeds, begin indoors about 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Sow the seeds in seed trays, keeping them lightly moist. Once the seedlings have developed their second set of leaves, they can be transplanted outdoors. Alternatively, you can also purchase young ground cherry plants from a local nursery or garden center. Transplants can be planted directly in your garden after the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up. Planting and Spacing: Prepare the soil by loosening it with a garden fork or tiller, removing any weeds or debris. Dig holes or furrows that are approximately 12-18 inches apart, as ground cherries tend to sprawl. Plant the seedlings or transplants at the same depth they were growing in their containers and firm the soil gently around the roots. Watering and Fertilizing: Keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged, throughout the growing season. Ground cherries have shallow root systems, so regular watering is essential, especially during dry spells. Applying a layer of mulch around the plants can help retain soil moisture and suppress weeds. Fertilize with a balanced organic fertilizer once a month to provide the plants with essential nutrients.

How/When To Harvesting

Monitoring Fruit Development: Ground cherries typically take around 70-90 days to reach maturity. As the fruits develop, the husks will change from green to a papery, straw-like texture and turn brown or golden in color. Gently squeeze the husk to check if the fruit inside feels plump and slightly soft. The husks may also fall to the ground when ripe. Harvesting: To harvest ground cherries, simply pluck the fruits from the plants, leaving the husks intact. The husks act as natural packaging, protecting the fruits and allowing them to store well. If you plan to store ground cherries, leave the husks on until you are ready to use them. Storage and Culinary Uses: Ground cherries have an impressive shelf life. When stored in a cool, dry place with the husks intact, they can last for several weeks. You can enjoy ground cherries raw as a sweet snack, use them in fruit salads, or incorporate them into pies, jams, and preserves. Their unique flavor adds a delightful twist to a variety of recipes.

Planting Schedules for Location: Leesburg, Virginia

Sow Indoors / Plant Out

Sow Indoors
Plant Out
  • Sow Depth: 1 cm
  • Spacing Between Rows: 91.5 cm
  • Spacing Along Row: 91.5 cm
  • Number plants per Square Foot: 0.5