Seed Count: Approx. 45 seeds
Days to Maturity: 70-90 Days
Description: This Ground Cherry variety boast small, golden yellow fruits wrapped in papery husks, that are packed with sweet, tart flavor, reminiscent of pineapple and other citrus fruits. These crisp, 1/2-3/4 in. fruits are great for snacking on or added to salads, but they can also be used to make salsas, jams, mixed drinks, and pie fillings. Fruits will drop to the ground once they are at their sweetest. Fruits can be kept in their husks for 3-4 weeks after being harvested. The plants have a low sprawling habit, however, you can train them to grow vertically. Just like tomatillos, you will need at least two plants for pollination purposes. Ground Cherries grow best in full sun in zones 3-9, but can do well partially shaded in hotter zones if grown during cooler months.
**These seeds were grown by my good friend Naomi in Virginia. We are pretty sure they are the Aunt Molly's cultivar, but are not 100% sure. Regardless they are delicious and make a lovely jam**
How To Grow
Sowing: Start ground cherry seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost of spring, or direct sow in warmer climates. Sow seeds 1/4" deep and 1" apart. They need 70-75 degrees F to germinate, as well as adequate light. Keep the soil moist, but make sure there is proper drainage, or the seeds can rot. When the second set of leaves emerge, transplant the seedlings into individual pots, burrying the stems up to the lowest set of leaves for strongly rooted plants.
Growing: Ground cherries do best in temperatures between 55-65 degrees, but can survive in temperatures up to 85 degrees. Bury them once more up to the lowest set of leaves. However, before transplanting your seedlings, make sure to harden them off first. A trellis isn't necessarily needed, but can be helpful to keep the plants upright, to conserve space, especially once loaded with fruit. It'll help to support your plants, and keep them off the ground, protecting them from diseases and pests. However, you can also allow them to sprawl on the ground. Protect plants, if temperatures drops below 55 degrees F, or damage will occur. Keep soil consistently moist, and feed with lots of organic matter during its grow season. Mulching can be beneficial to preserve moisture, and deter weeds. It is important to avoid wetting the leaves to reduce diseases. I surround my tomatillo, ground cherry, and tomato plants with basil to keep pests away. Other companion plants include marigolds, nasturtiums, sage, carrots, garlic, or onions.
Harvesting: Ground Cherries are ready to harvest when the fruit fall to the ground and turn from green to a bright, golden yellow. If you plan to store your fruits before using them, leave the husks on. They'll keep for several weeks in or out of the refrigerator. Just make sure to remove the husk, and wash off the sticky residue before consuming. Seed saving: Since cross pollination between varieties is likely, you should isolate your plants. Ground cherry seeds are ripe, once the fruit is ready to eat. You should ferment your seeds in order to remove the gel like substance on the seeds exterior. During fermentation, any bad seeds will float to the top, and all of the viable seeds stay sunk to the bottom. Fermenting your seeds can also increase germination rates as well. To ferment, squeeze the seeds, along with its gel, into a jar. Add some water, and let it sit at room temperature for a couple of days, you should see a film form on the top, and it should smell a bit sour. Once the film forms, skim it off the top, and rinse out your seeds. Place them on parchment paper to dry. Once dry, store your seeds for the next season.