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Discover the Ground Cherry

Updated on October 2, 2007

A wonderful memory I have from childhood, is sneaking into our garden, on my hands and knees, and "stealing" a little fruit called a Ground Cherry. I am certain that they tasted all the better because I had foraged them myself. PLUS, they came in these cute little packages-paper-like lanterns that held the little cherry sized fruit inside. It sort of wrecked things when I found out as an adult that my parents knew just what I had been doing all along. It, retroactively, sort of took all the fun out.

Ground cherries were used by the Native Americans and the Pioneers alike. For good reason, the versatile fruit will keep for up to 6 months in its hull with good ventilation. They also freeze very well.

They can be used in jams, put in muffins and quick breads, pies, and more. Its flavor seems to get a different description from every person tasting it. There are many varieties, but even with two different people tasting the same variety, the description of taste is often very different. Most will say descriptives like this: "strawberry-like", "sort of citrusy", "it reminds me of a mild pineapple flavor" -all different, all positive. Among our friends and family I have yet to get a negative response to the humble ground cherry.

I have also had people say, "Oh yes...I do remember these! I think I had these when I was really little. I think my Grandma made this pie"! It is fun to watch the nostalgia wash over faces. Amazing what buttons in the brain can get pushed by a taste bud.

If you are lucky enough to find ground cherries, I will give you a couple of recipes to get you going. Sadly most of you are not going to be able to locate them. Your best chance is to grow them yourself.

This is highly satisfying. I will warn you however to dedicate a patch of soil to the ground cherries and leave it for that. They are survivors, self seeding, year after year. There are farms, many of them that have the same heirloom ground cherries that have been growing there at least four generations (how cool is that?).

There are seed exchanges on the internet and seed companies where you can find real ground cherries. There can be confusion as to what a ground cherry is. A true ground cherry can go by many names, strawberry tomato, husk tomato, bladder tomato, and more.

To harvest, wait for the cherry, husk and all to fall off the plant. If they are still on the greenish side, place them on a flat tray, uncovered, in a dry warm area and most of them should fully ripen. My variety turns a nice orangey yellow.


Ground Cherry Pie

This is a great recipe I have used for several years

2 ½ to 3 cups Ground Cherries Washed

2/3 cup Brown Sugar

1 heaping Tablespoon Flour

2 tablespoons Water

3 tablespoon Sugar

3 tablespoon Flour

2 ½ tablespoons Butter

Place ground cherries into an unbaked pie shell. Stir together the brown sugar and the 1 tablespoon of flour-put this evenly over the ground cherries and then sprinkle water-again evenly-over all.

Stir together the 3 tablespoons sugar and the 3 tablespoons flour. Cut in the butter until it is crumbly-Place on top of pie.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Then turn down to 375 degrees and bake another 25 to 28 minutes.


Ground Cherry Marmalade Taken from "The Farm Journal's Country Cookbook" 1972

3 cups Ground Cherries husked and washed

2 cups Pears cooked, drained, and diced finely

¾ cup Water

½ cup Crushed Pineapple (drained)

¼ cup Lemon Juice

7 cups Sugar

½ bottle Liquid Fruit Pectin

Combine ground cherries, pears, and water: cook slowly for approx. 25 minutes.

Add the pineapple, lemon juice, and sugar-bring quickly to a full rolling boil. Add pectin: boil rapidly for 3 min.

Remove from heat and alternately skim and stir marmalade for 3 minutes.

Pour into hot sterilized jars: seal. Makes 7 one half pint jars.

Well, this can get you going. Enjoy the new/old taste, and push some buttons in your memory.


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    • profile image

      Bert from Sheboygan 4 years ago

      Any secret on growing larger ground cherry berries? I don't care about the size of the plant, just the size and number of fruits. Any ideas on which sweet variety ground cherry produces the largest and most prolific ground cherries? I've been growing the same Aunt Molly's now for a number of years, satisfied, but would like to try to add another ground cherry, just as sweet, but larger and more prolific. Thanks for any responses.

    • profile image

      nattyelk 5 years ago

      ground cherries are in full bloom and ripening right now. there are many other wild food to eat out there . I live in tennessee and believe it or not the ground cherry is a pain in my butt . in my garden . I do let it grow . just so i can have a harvest of cherries. I never have to reseed ever I can count on it coming up every year. If you have sumac the smooth and the stag horn your might be interested in the flavor of its wonderful fruit. it can be dried . it also can be made into different recipes. so many wild foods out there to eat and are free been living off mother nature for a long time.

    • profile image

      Steve 5 years ago

      I know this is a little late but in responding to Ruth, I love in Wernersville, just outside Lancaster, Reading and Lebanon. I bought my Yellow Ground Cherries at Zerns in Gilbertsville/Boyertown for $0.75 a plant. However a week later I was at Green Dragon right outside of Ephrata which is by far closer to you and right near building 1 they were selling tons of Ground Cherry plants for $1. it might be too late now, but maybe next year you might know where to look. Also several nurseries around Reading have them if you travel up this way. Just not nearly as cheap.

      I also wonder, is it possible to grow ground cherries indoors? are they insect or wind pollinated? I have a huge window in my kitchen that gets decent light and I kinda want to grow them all year if I can. I never see any insects on my plants and I have maybe about 60-70 of them so far on my Two plants hanging in my Topsy Turvy Tomato tree.

    • profile image

      elvi 6 years ago

      I just ordered a bunch of different variates at . Hopefully something will come up! i heard they are hard to germinate :)

    • Spider Girl profile image

      Spider Girl 6 years ago from the Web

      Just bought these at a local market and now want to try the marmalade! Thanks for sharing :)

    • profile image

      Sara R 6 years ago

      I tried these for the first time today and am hooked! I live in an apartment but will try growing in a container next year with fingers crossed.

    • profile image

      Heather 6 years ago

      My grandma also introduced us grand kids to ground cherries back in the early 70's. About 10+ yrs ago my mother (same grandma's daughter) and I went to someones house who advertised having volunteer plants to share. Needless to say I have had ground cherries every year since. They just pop up all over my large flower garden and I will let a few grow to get those sweet golden nostalgic fruits that my grandma first introduced to me years ago. I grow them for my now elderly mother so that she can enjoy them and the lovely memories that they bring. :9

    • profile image

      vicky 6 years ago

      You can get the seeds also from Jung's in Randolph Wi. Very easy to grow!

    • profile image

      Mary Ann 6 years ago

      Our ground cherry plants here in northeastern Pennsylvania and at our former home in South Dakota originated with plants from my father's Iowa garden. I was a child when a maternal aunt, who did most of our gardening then, came home triumphant one day with seeds to produce the marvelous little golden fruits she and both my parents had grown up with. Now I keep the tradition going by sharing seeds and plants with siblings who lose theirs. We passed ground cherry plants along to our daughter's gardens in Wisconsin and now Maine. If Ruth can get to the Scranton area next spring, I'd gladly share plants with her.

      This year our ground cherries are especially bounteous and already I've made several pies. I'm not interested in canning jam and would appreciate finding other simple ground cherry dessert recipes.

    • profile image

      jan morin 6 years ago

      I have been growing them for a couple of years. You can order seeds from TERRITORIALSEED.COM. You can direct sow them in the garden. I planted them once and the past few years the plants have come up fRom the ground cherries that I missed picking up. Haven't ever made a pie or jam with them as I seem to eat them by the handful as I am husking them ! Truly a different but easy to grow plant for every garden.

    • profile image

      Joann Nelson 6 years ago

      I can remember my Grandmother and Mother, always had groundcherries, in their gardens. We as kids just loved them, we never had enough to make pies,or preserves, they were always "Canned Fresh". I send Groundcherries to our family members from coast to coast, they all comment, reminds me of Grandma. They are really a TREAT.

    • profile image

      Catherine 6 years ago

      Thank you for all the information on ground cherries. This is my first year growing them. And it won't be my last. They are wonderful to eat right out of the garden. Now if only I can save enough to cook up in to something.

    • profile image

      Kipp 6 years ago

      WOW - glad I finally saw some at the farmer's market and asked about them. I had purchased 2 plants but wasn't sure what they were. Now I know and I have tasted a few and love them! I can't wait to harvest the little fruits and use them! Very tasty and something I will keep planting in my future gardens.

    • profile image

      Wayve 6 years ago

      The smell of a ground cherry immediately transports me back 55 years to my Great Grandma Cad's garage in Ohio, where she and I would husk them for her famous ground cherry preserves. We brought seeds from her plants to TN and later to GA, but I finally lost them. Last year I grew Cape Gooseberries, which were supposed to be like ground cherries, only larger. Not true! They were large, sticky and stinky like a tomatillo. I didn't even pick them. This year I got Physalis pruinosa from Johnny's Selected Seeds and they are the "real thing". You can always count on Johnny's for accurate descriptions. I have enjoyed introducing people to this "new" fruit. We keep trying, but can't make the ground cherry preserves taste like Grandma Cad's. I could sure use a lesson, and one from my late Grandma Grace on how to make tomato butter. I would encourage all cooks to write down in detail how they make the things that they think everyone knows, because by the time we are teachable, the master may be gone.

    • profile image

      Dianne C. 6 years ago

      My grandma always had ground cherries in her garden. We kids were always raiding the bushes and eating them. She would ask us to get her enough to make a pie and she was lucky to have enough for the pie by the time we got back to the house with them. This year, as I was buying plants and seeds for the garden, I ran across some ground cherry plants. It brought back so many wonderful childhood memories that I had to buy a couple. I'm so glad that I did! I now have enough cherries that I am making a pie today.

    • profile image

      Bill Krein 7 years ago

      Ruth, good luck! When we lived in Lancaster County, I looked everywhere for plants or seed. I remember an older lady from a large greenhouse near Lancaster City telling me that they were too old fashion and nobody wants them anymore. I ended up having to order seed from on-line. I guess I am old fashion and so were all my neighbors loved it when I gave them some.

    • profile image

      Ruth J. Rowen 7 years ago

      Where can I buy the ground cherries or the ground cherry plant in Lancaster County, PA? Thanks. Ruth

    • profile image

      shirley 7 years ago

      I live in Iowa, and we had a hard freeze, I covered the plants up, but they don't seem to good. There are alot od cherries left on the plants, what a waste. Shoud I bury them in the ground?

    • profile image

      Michele 7 years ago

      Yes, the ground cherry is a solanum or part of the nightshade family. It is related to the tomato, potato and eggplant. It will also be subject to many of the same diseases. Best bet? Do not plant with your tomatoes. Tomatoes are the worst carriers of all the diseases that hit the solanum family. Best of luck, Bertha, don't give them up, just separate them a bit!

    • profile image

      Bertha 7 years ago

      Last year a neighbor gave me a few "ground cherries" and I was hooked. I bought one at our local nursery and it started slowly producing as soon as our tomatoes did. At first it was dropping a few fully ripened fruits but then seemed to get the blight that our tomatoes have (late in the summer)and is dropping most of it's fruit - greed husked and fruit is small and green. Is there a way I can rippen them inside and should I be leaving the husks on while they ripen? Mine are small, about dowble the size of a pea and now about 2 dozen are dropping a day. Can somone tell me where I can order larger bearing plant seeds and what I should call them? Does anyone know if they get the tomato blight? Thanks for any help.

    • profile image

      Ron Lee 7 years ago

      We are now harvesting our Ground Cherry's. They are a

      really good snack, fresh and chilled. Have a pie that just came out of the oven for supper. We started here in Ohio just a few years ago with just some seeds scattered along with Huckleberry seeds in the garden, they both re-seed and are really versitile ie; pies, jams, jellies, marmalade and Huckleberry Buckle.

    • profile image

      Cheryl O 7 years ago

      I have a ground cherry plant, given to me by someone, and I have about 7 fruits on it so far. In reading much information about them, everyone says that they are marble size or so. Mine are about the size of golf balls, are these the same thing. They have the lanterns on them, and then split open to reveal a lemon colored golf ball. Must not be posion, my dog sampled a few before I brought the extra large pot to a safer place. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

    • profile image

      ChristineB 7 years ago


      We first encountered Cape Gooseberries in Montreal last summer, and were so smitten that we included them in our garden this year. They have exceeded our expectations in every way - easy to grow (once they finally germinate!), prolific bearing, tasty as can be. We will be growing them as long as we can in our greenhouse, and starting them again for next summer.

    • profile image

      Dayle 7 years ago

      I don't know about indigenous ones to the U.S. (I'm getting conflicting sources about that) but the Physalis peruviana, the Cape Gooseberry are the ones we use in the kitchen I work for in Montreal. They make fantastic decorational pieces for desserts or cheese platters - though they often get overlooked because no-one knows what they are. Thanks for posting the jam recipe, I've been looking for one for awhile!

    • profile image

      Vicki Loomis 8 years ago

      I feel like the ground cherry is a family secret as not many people know about them. I always felt special when my grandma would give me a little penny sack full of them. I was so excited to find a ground cherry plant at a greenhouse in Seattle, Wa last summer. We brought it home to SD treating it like gold driving home. To my disappointment it did't produce any ground cherries last year. From what I read, may-be I should start one from seeds in the house instead.

    • profile image

      Andrew Charles 8 years ago

      I gather Michele is talking about Physalis grisea, which is sometimes called strawberry tomato, but there are around another hundred different species of the "true" ground cherry in the Physalis genus, some annual, some perennial, and widely distributed globally. Twenty-five are native to the US While four more have been introduced as ornamental or food plants. All are known as ground cherries and husk tomatoes which can often make identifying written references impossible without detailed descriptions of appearance and flavor. Most perennial varieties are considered noxious weeds outside their native range. Like tomatoes and potatoes they are members of the nightshade family and while the fruits are usually edible the rest of the plant is toxic and may poison livestock. There are three main species cultivated for their fruit:

      The North American native grisea (a.k.a pruinosa) and larger South American peruviana both produce golden fruit with a similar sweet pineapple taste and have been marketed as both ground cherries and Cape gooseberries. The "golden ground-cherries" from Little Town on the Prairie were almost certainly grisea, although peruviana is more widely cultivated.

      The Central American philadelphica is now widely grown in North America and is probably the oldest cultivated species. When ripe the fruit can be green, yellow, red or purple. When used ripe they were commonly called husk tomatoes in the US (the purple variety is presumably that mentioned as "husk tomatoes" in Little Town), but they are also known as (Mexican) ground cherries. When picked before ripening for their tartness and green color they are now more commonly known as tomatillos, green tomatoes or tomate verde.

    • profile image

      Christine 8 years ago

      Cindy Lu - that's exactly what I do! Those suckers pop right out of there quite easily and it makes shucking them go much faster.

    • profile image

      Cindy Lu 8 years ago

      I found an easy way to remove the cherry from the husk. Easy to do but hard to describe. Grab the ground cherry at the base and squeeze, the ground cherry pops out from the husk. In grabbing use the thumb, index and middle finger. Pinch the husk so it starts to slide off the back side of the ground cherry then pop or squeeze the ground cherry forward to release it. You might have to experiment. A Chef friend was over and we did a ground cherry-pistachiop demi-glaze sauce for lamb with a light touch of shallots, garlic and white wine vinegar. Very Good.

    • profile image

      Merry Evans 8 years ago


      We're going to be processing ground cherries next year with a mailorder for jams and jellies. We can't keep them in stock!.

    • profile image

      Merry Evans 8 years ago

      Go to my website - there is a pie recipe posted on the main page. This is a simple but great pie.

      I'm peeling ground cherries as I type this - I'm making jam and pie filling this afternoon.

    • profile image

      Mary 8 years ago

      I made ground cherry freezer jam for the first time and it is great! Put 2 cups of ground cherries in food processor and pulse to coarse chop. In 2 qt pan put ground cherries, 2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice and the zest of one lemon. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 min. Stir in one 3 ounce pkg of lemon jello till it is dissolved. Skim the foam off the top then pour into freezer containers. Almost as good as the cooked jam my mother made.

    • Michele Engholm profile image

      Michele Engholm 8 years ago from Hutchinson

      You are so welcome! Many memories for my family also!! Thanks for stopping by! Michele

    • profile image

      Pat R 8 years ago

      Thank you for this site. I remember my dad growing ground cherries when I was a kid. His grandmother - lived in Vernon County - grew them by the bushel.

    • Michele Engholm profile image

      Michele Engholm 8 years ago from Hutchinson

      So glad you enjoyed this...Our ground cherries are growing like crazy here...I can hardly wait for them to ripen!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting...Good luck with your Ground Cherries!

    • profile image

      The Jersey Homesteader 8 years ago

      I have been looking for recipes for the ground cherries. I am glad I found your site. My dear husband and I have about 30 plants and they are producing. They are very easy to grow, not much care needed. Just bring in the fruit, and that's the best part of it. I think this is a great fruit to introduce people to.

    • profile image

      The Jersey Homesteader 8 years ago

      I have been looking for recipes for the ground cherries. I am glad I found your site. My dear husband and I have about 30 plants and they are producing. They are very easy to grow, not much care needed. Just bring in the fruit, and that's the best part of it. I think this is a great fruit to introduce people to.

    • profile image

      Dave Lea 8 years ago

      My daughter is doing a major gardening project - a CSA. She has seveal nice plots she is working and I love to help when I'm not tied down at our pie shop. One thing she mentioned the other day as we were weeding the rows was that one little plant seems to be the starting point for one of the toughest pests, the potato beetle. She showed me the bright orange eggs on the underside of the leaves of of some of these seedlings we were pulling up. The weeds were everywhere and sure enough I found that here and there there were some riddled with holds and when I turned them over there were little black and red larva munching away. These would turn into the green and white striped beetles eventually that infested the potatos and peppers and tomatos later in the season.

      I went on-line that night and looked and looked to try to identify the plant and finally pinned it down as "Smooth Ground Cherry". It seems that there is a combined curse and blessing with these plants! I noticed in the descriptions on several sites that the leaves and green fruit are poisonous, but that the fruit looses the toxin when ripe. This might be a good thing to keep in mind when picking these for a pie or jam.

      I know we will try making one of these pies at our shop. We love to experiment!

      Dave Lea in Fish Creek, WI

    • profile image

      ahsley 9 years ago

      its nasty

    • Michele Engholm profile image

      Michele Engholm 9 years ago from Hutchinson

      Thanks for the link. We have them coming out of our ears here right now, but I am sure many will appreciate finding a source for these little gems!

    • profile image

      Merry Evans 9 years ago

      We grow them and sell them at Southern Wisconsin Farmers Markets.

      We can mail them to you also.

    • Michele Engholm profile image

      Michele Engholm 9 years ago from Hutchinson

      We love them too!! Good luck with yours...the great thing is they self seed, so you should have plenty next year too. I will have to try dipping them in choc. Sounds yummy!! Thanks for reading....Michele

    • profile image

      Linda 9 years ago

      I love the ground cherry pie - have spent 30.00 for one. This year I was able to buy some plants. I ordered 4 and was lucky enough to get 8 plants now I hope to get enough to freeze and try to make some jam and of course at least one pie. I am going to dip in chocolate for a treat. They are the greatest.


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