Plenty of gardeners are familiar with growing tomatoes, as well as peppers and potatoes. These plants – all members of the Solanaceae family – also have some lesser-known and delicious relatives, like the tomatillo and ground cherry.
Ground cherries are low, spreading annuals that can be planted from seed. The seeds are available from several heirloom seed companies. They should be started indoors two months before the last frost and transplanted outside after the last frost, in late May. The plants grow quickly once they are established, and produce fruit prolifically throughout the late summer. Just a few plants can produce enough ground cherries for a household.
The ground cherry fruit, like the larger tomatillo, looks much like a cherry tomato encased in a paper lantern. The fruits will turn from green to yellow, and will fall off the plant when they are ready to harvest. Remove the papery husk and enjoy them fresh as is, or include them in salsas, pies, or salads. The flavor of the ground cherry is sweet, like pineapple with a bit of tomato.
If you’re looking for an unusual garden plant with an alien exterior and amazing flavor, give the ground cherry a try.