Ground cherry care
Ground cherries get their namesake from the way they ripen: you’ll know they’re ready to eat when they drop their fruit to the ground. Whether you’re growing in containers or directly in the ground, Mellish suggests mulching around the bottom of plants to protect ripe fruit from falling onto moist soil and rotting. As soon as ground cherries fall off the plant, they are ready to eat and should be collected as soon as possible so they’re not sitting on the ground for too long. Alternatively, you can use a plastic groundcover at the base of plants to stifle weeds and to provide a clean surface for ripe ground cherries.
Pests and diseases
The husks on ground cherries protect the fruit, so they’re not particularly susceptible to problems. Mellish says they may attract flea beetles early in the season, but this shouldn’t be a big concern.
Harvesting and using ground cherries
When your ground cherries are ripe (about 60 to 65 days after transplanting) their husks will turn brown and they’ll drop from their plant. You’ll likely find yourself harvesting them handfuls at a time until the first frost.
One plant can produce about 100 ground cherries a season. In their paper husks, the fruit can be stored for up to a month. During that time, experiment with the tart and sweet taste of ground cherries in a variety of dishes. They’re most commonly found in bright, orange sweet jams and in pies, but they also work well over ice cream, dipped in chocolate, in pancakes or in a crumble.
The best way to enjoy your ground cherries, though, is raw. Just peel back the wrapper, rinse and enjoy!