One of my favourite summer crops is Ground Cherry! If you haven’t grown it before, you would be surprised to learn that ground cherry is related to the tomato and is a member of the Solanaceae family. Cousins of the ground cherry also include eggplant, potato, pepper and tomatillo. However, the flavour of ground cherry is completely different. Covered in a papery sheath and also known as Physalis, ground cherry is grown for its sweet fruit value.
I have been growing ground cherries for many years and it has become a constant staple in my kitchen garden.
To learn more about ground cherries and for seed saving instructions, read on.
There are two types of ground cherries in cultivation. Physalis pruinosa and Physalis peruviana. I have grown P. peruviana and can describe the berries under their papery sheath as firm, orangey-yellow fruit, with firm skin and dense flesh. The sweet flavour is a cross between a pineapple and a strawberry. Ground cherries dehydrate well, resembling a yellow raisin with an increased sweetness.
Unlike tomatoes, ground cherries grow close to the ground on wide spreading, bushy plants.
Ground cherry is very easy to harvest. Simply wait for it to mature and fill out in its papery sheath. Once fully ripe, ground cherries tends to drop to the ground. By mulching the ground with straw, you protect the little berries from collecting dirt. Then run your hands over the mulch and collect handfuls daily.
Ground cherries are slow to start growing, but once they do, they won’t stop producing delicious fruit until frost.
How to Save Ground Cherry Seeds:
Tools Needed For Seed Saving:
- sharp paring knife
- tap water
- tight mesh strainer/colander
- large plate
- sticky note or masking tape to label your seeds
- Peel back the papery sheaths and remove them where they attach to the fruit.
- Cut ground cherries in half, with a sharp paring knife.
- Squeeze the halved ground cherries into a bowl, then add the partially squeezed halves to the bowl, as well.
- Top up the bowl with tap water.
- Using your fingers, stir the fruit around in the water and push any pulp and seeds off the skins.
- Remove the clean skins from the water.
- Use your fingers to break up any seeds from the floating fruit pulp.
- Leave the seeds to settle and the pulp to float.
- After the seeds have settled to the bottom, carefully pour off the pulp into the sink.
- Pour off any floating seeds, as these are not viable.
- Drain the seeds in a tight mesh strainer.
- After the water has drained away, lay your seeds out on a plate to dry. Do not use paper towel as it will stick to the seeds, making it difficult to remove.
- Label your seeds with the date and variety, then attach the label to the plate.
- After about two weeks, the seeds should be fully dry.
- Test for dryness by attempting to press your nail into a few seeds. If the seeds are rock hard, they are ready for storage.
- Store the seeds in a coin paper envelope or a glass jar, to prevent moisture buildup.
Ground cherry seeds have a long shelf life. If stored properly in a cool, dry and dark location, they should remain viable for many years to come.