Physalis pruinosa. Sow Aunt Molly's ground cherry seeds in the spring for a big harvest of sweet ground cherries by late summer. The plants and fruits resemble tomatillos, with each fruit growing inside a papery husk called a calyx. But fruits mature to a golden orange colour, and drop to the ground when ripe. The sweet little fruits will store for up to three months if kept in their husks, but you’ll want to use them faster than that in jams, fruit salads, and sauces. Aunt Molly’s originated in Poland and are productive in coastal gardens.
Matures in 65-70 days. (Open pollinated seeds)
These big sprawling plants are easier to grow than tomatoes and do not require any protection from rain. Their fruits develop within a distinctive, paper-like wrapper that forms from the calyx of the flower. As the fruits mature and swell, they sometimes fill or split the covering. Tomatillos are prized for their tartness, and are widely used in Mexican cuisine. Ground cherries (AKA Cape Gooseberries) produce sweeter tasting fruits that are used for preserves and desserts. Continue reading below for tips on how to grow tomatillos and ground cherries from seed.
Tomatillo: Physallis philadelphica
Ground Cherry: Physallis peruviana
Season & Zone
Season: Warm season
Start indoors in early spring with bottom heat, and transplant out in warm weather, once night time temperatures are consistently above 10°C (50°F).
Sow seeds 5mm-1cm (¼-½”) deep in individual pots or trays. Space transplants 45-60cm (18-24″) apart in rows 90-120cm (36-48″) apart.
Ideal pH: 6.5-7.0. Full sun and regular watering will keep the plants producing. Plants need support to keep drooping branches off the ground. Tomato cages work well. Tomatillos and ground cherries are good candidates for large containers. Be sure to pick the fruit before it drops.
For salsa verde, harvest tomatillos when they’re just starting to lighten up on the blossom end. But for fresh eating, the fruit is sweetest when it turns yellow and splits its husks, sometimes falling to the ground. For ground cherries, the fruit ripen from green to yellow-gold, and drop to the ground in their husks.
In optimal conditions at least 75% of seeds should germinate. Usual seed life: 3 years.