How to grow and use ground cherries is an older popular blog article that is time to refresh. We included our favorite ground cherry piroshki recipe. Try it and let us know how you like it.
Ground cherries, also known as cape gooseberries, are little orange fruits resembling tomatillos, with each fruit growing inside a papery husk called a calyx. Fruits fall from the plant when ripe, that’s why they are called Ground Cherries. Other than the fruits’ shape and size, they have nothing in common with cherries.
Ground cherries are actually part of the nightshade family, like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Ground Cherries have a unique, delicious tropical taste, very sweet and a bit like pineapples. Here is how to grow and use ground cherries.
How to grow Ground Cherries
Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry variety is the most popular for cooler climates and matures in 65-70 days. Cape Gooseberry is another great variety, according to the catalog it needs about 80 days to maturity, but so far I have not noticed that they are later than Aunt Molly. We grow ours in the greenhouse though.
Ground Cherries have very small seeds that need an early start at least 8- 10 weeks before the last frost day. Germination is often slow, so be patient. Once they are up and growing, give them a warm and sunny location. Since they are from the same plant family as tomatoes and peppers, they are very similar in care too. Read here how to start seeds indoors.
Once all danger of frost is gone, transplant seedlings into the garden or greenhouse. Choose a warm microclimate for them.
Ground cherries need at least 2 – 3 square feet (0.28 m²) of space.
They can be supported by a support cage, but I find they do best just by being able to spread along the ground. Remember they are called ground cherries. Use common sense here. If you are in a wet climate, keeping them off the ground might be crucial so the fruit does not rot. In a dry and cold climate like ours in the prairies, the warm ground helps them to mature.
Ground Cherries require full sun and fairly warm to hot temperatures to grow, very much like tomatoes and peppers. They mature 60-80 days after transplanting depending on the variety.
Ground Cherries are a nice looking plant, you can plant them in a flower garden close to the house, in a sheltered and sunny location. Or if you have a greenhouse, they will do even better in there.
Weed-control fabric can be used to cover the ground around the plants. It warms up the surrounding soil and makes it easier to gather all the fruit that is fallen to the ground at the end of the growing season.
Ground cherries can also be grown in a pot or grow bag.
Ground Cherries tend to reseed themselves. In our cold climate though they come up very late, often too late to mature.
How to harvest and store Ground Cherries
Ground Cherries are ready to harvest when the wrap has changed color from green to yellowish-white. At that stage, the cherry will be very easy to pick and even often fall to the ground.
If the growing season is over and the first heavy frost is in the forecast, but some wraps are still more green than yellow, harvest them anyway. Ground cherries do after-ripen indoors, just like tomatoes.
For storage make sure to leave them in the wrap they grow in.
To store ground cherries you need a dry, dark place, not necessarily cold. We store ours in a cardboard box in the basement furnace room.
This picture was taken at the end of January when I used the last ones. They do get a little wrinkly but taste just as good.
Ground Cherries can just be eaten raw, fresh-picked/gathered from the plant, or they can be used in preserves, pies, or on ice cream. They are a beautiful, sweet treat.
Ground Cherry piroshki recipe
Our favorite is Ground Cherry piroshki. Piroshki, also translated as pirozhki or pyrizhky, is a generic word for individual-sized baked or fried buns stuffed with various fillings.
Use our dinner buns dough recipe or your favorite bun recipe.
- Let the dough rise till it is about double (ca. 1 hour).
- Prepare the ground cherries and a 2-to-1 sugar-flour mixture.
- Divide the dough into egg-sized buns.
- In your hand palm flatten the bun forming a basin.
- Fill them with a handful of ground cherries and a tablespoon of sugar-flour mixture. Close tightly (see picture above).
- Let the piroshki rise until they are about double in size (about 30 minutes).
- Preheat the oven to 400 F, and bake for 18 – 20 Minutes
The slugger will melt and the cherries will shine with their golden color. Yum!
What is your favorite way to use ground cherries? Tell us in a comment below.
More Growing Food Posts You Might Enjoy: