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Ground Cherry results

July 14, 2008

Here it is. My first year growing.


I can add to the sentiment that is is curious why this is such an exotic plant( meaning few people seem to grow it). I have tried the first few fruits and have allowed others to do so as well. Everyone seems to like them. It is much like a very sweet tomato but when its particularly ripe the sweetness level increases and is very berry like.

I will be growing these in the future and is certainly a good producer. If someone is looking to add a fruit like variety to the garden this is a great option.

Its a low sprawling plant and is well over 2 feet wide.

Comments (68)

  • aulani


    Thank you for more information. I feel rich, rich, rich! You know, I don't think that the seeds you send will produce this year. By mid October we are already having frost so there's not that much time. Instead I will plant them early next spring as soon as frost is over. I already have a spot picked out.

    Hi Solanaceae,

    Yes, I was reading about how they do better in poor soils. My soil is just like yours, typical Mel's Mix -- peat, vermiculite, commercial compost and some of my own homemade compost. I grow in raised beds, no bottoms, just garden soil.

    Imagine, in Hawaii, they grow wild up in the mountains and people hike up there to get them. Great day trip because there are many wild things in the mountains of Hawaii -- guavas, ginger, mangoes, bamboo, mountain apples, and refreshing waterfalls. Soil in the mountains is just made up of whatever composts naturally.

    I was fascinated by all the different names given this fruit by the different countries where it grows. Of course I call it Poha. POE ha.

    Isn't this neat?

  • schoolhouse_gw

    "Is there any storage advice on the hull? Does one just let it dry out until planting?"

    Yes, you can pick the ripe/almost ripe hulls, leave the fruit inside, put them in a paper bag; and they will dry up and become a flat looking crispy thing with seeds in it over time. Grd. Cherries keep a long time in the hull for eating, the older they are the sweeter. But don't eat when rotten! ha.

    From my personal experience, I've let the dried hulls that have ripened and fallen from the plant to the ground just lay there and then when I'm tearing the plants up in the fall, shove some of the hulls (with cherry inside) under the dirt. You see, grd. cherries as I know them, will self-seed this way naturally; maybe not 100% but very likely you'll have some babies come up next Spring on their own even if you don't purposely plant them. As I said before, they're almost like a weed. Plus, I already mentioned that there IS a week that resembles the ground cherry plant - is it called Nightshade? I should look it up to be sure. That is NOT good to eat - can make you sick. Gets purple flowers I think, no fruit. But, you might think you have grd.cherry when it's really Nightshade. Around here, anyway, both grow in the gardens.

    I tend to cultivate my entire garden in the Spring and suddenly remember I've tilled the grd.cherry plants under! So there goes my baby plants. Have never been one to start seed indoors, so I can't be of much help in that regard.

  • leafygreens_pdx

    OK, I feel kind of stupid asking this but I'd never even heard of a ground cherry before this spring. --My plant is growing like mad and producing lots of fruit but I have no idea how to tell when they're ripe. Can someone help me out here?

  • solanaceae

    Hello leafygreens,

    My plant is now somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 feet wide. Its a monster so I know what you mean. A no brainier way is to simply wait for it to fall on the ground. They are sweeter the longer you wait and I like to wait until they are a yellow orange and they will not have a hint of green on the husk.

  • cyumickey

    I'm jealous. I bought poha berry seeds from tradewindsfruit, but couldn't get them started. Any tricks? Of course, I had a lot of problems starting anything from seed this year, but I was really hoping to get the poha...

  • solanaceae

    Harvest season update.


    The plant is certainly bigger and is producing about 15 berries a day. Its about 4 feet wide now. I have another in a container that is smaller. It simply adjusts to its space.

    I saved a bit of the harvest. The smell is wonderful and a bit like candied pine apple. The taste is also pineapple like but completely unique. The texture is certainly tomato like. This is about 3 cups of berries that I allowed to ripen. Even husk off they keep well at least a few weeks.


    Used these for a pie of course.

    I am completely surprised by the result. I just had it today. It tastes like a combination of tropical fruit/pineapple and suggestions of butter scotch. It completely exceeded my expectation. To put it in context I have recently made apple and peach pie with fruit directly from the tree aka as fresh as possible. This fruit is not a second rate substitute by any means. It is in fact a superior ingredient on its own let alone its novelty. This closes the book for me on the original comment. Why is this not in every garden? What a plant....

    I had a lot of trouble researching ground cherries and I could find photos of the fruit but rarely the plant at any stage. I hope this helps another who had the same problem I did.

  • pbunch

    This fruit is very popular here in Colombia. It is called uchuva and grows very well at high elevations. We have a place at 7500 feet (2400 meters) and it is commonly grown in the area. Temps there range between about 50F (night) and 70-72F (day.) It also grows a lower elevations where it is warmer.

  • schoolhouse_gw

    Congrats on your success, solanaceae. Lookin' good! I can smell that pie through the monitor. The hulls on my plants are still green, as I planted late; but it will be a bumper crop.

  • oldroser

    My mother grew these and loved them - they came up year after year on their own acord and needed just to be thinned. Personally I found the flavor a bit flat but...
    You can use any peach recipe and substitute ground cherries if you want pie, jam, jelly, whatever. They need pectin and acid to set but so do peaches. I also made a pretty good ginger conserve with fresh ginger, ground cherries and white raisins.
    With a little lemon juice they make a fairly good sauce, as in apple sauce. To serve over cake or hot biscuits or whatever, with or without ice cream and whipped cream.

  • trsinc

    Thanks for giving us an update, solanaceae. I can't wait to try these next year!

    oldroser, you are a good cook!

  • shellyb54

    I am dying to know how you keep your ground cherries from getting the little white worm in them. I don't remember having this problem when my mom grew them years ago. I have been trying every few years for the past 30 and everytime I go to husk the berries- over 1/2 have a hole at the blossom end with a little, sometimes not so little, white worm inside. I grew them again this year after waiting 7 years. I just gathered a big basket full and alas, again, there the little critters are again this year. I want a pie so bad. Can you help me?

  • schoolhouse_gw

    shellyb54, never saw worms inside mine. That being said, I picked up a handful of husks from under the plants this morning, hope I don't find worms! I popped a cherry in my mouth without even looking, too. Ugh. I'll ask my friend if she's ever experienced wormy ground cherries and if so what's to be done.

  • aulani

    How exciting to see those beautiful poha berries, solanaceae. Seeing them makes my day. What a great thread this has been. I can't wait to plant the seeds I got in the mail this coming spring. Thank you schoolhouse. BTW, your giant coneflower seeds are drying nicely.

    The famous poha jam from Hawaii uses a little lemon juice and rind. What a distinct flavor those berries have. Pectin is a must.

    Old roser, your ginger conserve sounds wonderful! Great idea with the raisins. I just made hot pepper/ginger/peach jam yesterday. I like that on muffins when mornings are frosty.

    Shellyb, I'm afraid you're gonna have to spray for those critters. If not Sevin, then Rotenone. These berries are much too precious to let the worms get the best of you.

    Again Solanaceae, great thread!!!

  • schoolhouse_gw

    Looks like I'll have plenty hulls to share, Aulani; so I'll be mailing fresh seed as I've promised. Giant flowers always have a home down in the "wild garden"! Thanks.

  • denninmi

    Solanaceae, I am growing 'Aunt Molly's' and one just called 'Husk Tomato' (got if off a seed rack, at Lowe's I believe).

    The fruit in your picture look considerably bigger than mine, which seem to be only about 1/4 inch in diameter, some might be up to 1/2 inch. They've had plenty of water and fertilizer, so that isn't the issue, and they are producing tons of fruit, but I don't know why they are SO small. I've grown them in the past, and remember them as being larger?

    So, my question is, how big are the ones in the photo, on average?

    And, that pie is a low blow == I'm on a diet. (Looks wonderful, though).

    SE Michigan

  • solanaceae

    Thanks Alani.

    Hello Denninmi,

    I am also using Ant Molly I think but possibly Cossack Pineapple. They are 1/2 inch typically but occasionally bigger as well as smaller but 90% fall into the 1/2 inch range.
    As far as the comment about the flavor being flat I can say a yes and no. Its not an over powering flavor and not really going to compete with a blue berry or a bing cherry on that level where the sugar and acid content is much higher. Its a light more subtle flavor that is very nice on its own and one must be careful not to over power in certain contexts. However that is what surprised me with the pie. The usual sugar and butter supplements for the fruit made it one of the best pie ingredients I can remember having. It had a mission fig like consistency, probably because of the small seeds, and a kind of butter scotch like flavor all without being cloying which seems impossible when mentioning butterscotch and that is an approximation since it is as we all say unique. Again I did see comments along similar lines that this fruit really takes off in pies. It also sounds like jam may also bring out this unique fruit.

    Sorry I cannot say about the worms but a photo might help others identify it and you may try google image to try and make an ID for "husk tomato" pests.

  • vieja_gw

    On grandma's Iowa farm they grew rampant all over the garden & what we kids didn't get to first, she picked the fallen husks, retrieved the fruit & made the best groundcherry pies!! Here in NM I got it started in the garden & it is coming up all over in the garden as well as flower beds, etc. I guess the birds carry & drop the seeds! It is now kind of a pest like the Sweet Annie but the leaves of both in Spring are distinctive so I can pull what I don't want to grow. Seems subsequent plants from prior years' seeds tend to produce smaller fruits though. Sure a chore to pick up the fallen fruit,remove from the husks enough to make a pie of jam though!

  • schoolhouse_gw

    My friend Lucinda who gives me seed when I need it, says she has never heard of white worms in grd cherries. Just for imput.

  • cyumickey

    dang...I tried to sprout some and they never took. I wonder if I tried to do it now while it's hot, if they would survive over winter? I'm in so cal so it may be ok...?

  • schoolhouse_gw

    When did you harvest the seed or buy it? Last fall's seed may still grow if you plant it next Spring - 50/50 chance I'm told. But, then again I don't know anything about growing plants in So. California. If we did that back here in the Ohio, it wouldn't work on account of if the grd cherry plant doesn't grow and produce seed, you get no cherries (w/seeds). It dies in the fall, is not a perennial.

  • jillzee

    Hi Shellyb,

    I'd suggest using Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) against the white worms. You can get it as a spray or powder, and it isn't as broad-spectrum of a killer as rotenone is, but still is organic. It only really targets worms/caterpillars and washes off just fine.

    Whichever you choose, good luck! That must be so disappointing when you go to pick the fruit!


  • anna.irving

    Can someone please tell me the difference between Aunt Molly & Cossack Pineapple?


  • solanaceae

    Hello all,

    I can confirm the presence of worms in the fruit. If I find any others I will try to photo document it. Its only been perhaps 20-30 berries which I will use as wads for seed. They are so far a minor pest and I plan to have more BT for SVBs next year anyway. They are easy to spot since the fruit is a bit damaged and usually shows when its yellow green.
    I am trying to guess what it is but I have not found any good info on it. Perhaps I will see if I can get one to mature to get an idea of the adult form.
    I am still very happy with the production but I will need to be alert and keep crop rotation over the years.

    Hello vieja,

    If you are allowing the birds to do your cultivating then that is likely the reason the berries are smaller since that is what the birds prefer. Wild cherries tend to be bird sized because of their selective pressure. Humans create selective pressure for larger fruit.

  • denninmi

    I made some jam today with some of my crop of ground cherries. I had about six cups of ripe husked berries, to which I added 4 cups of unsweetened pineapple juice, 3 single-serving packets of dehydrated lemon juice, a package of sugar-free formula pectin, and I used about 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of Splenda.

    It turned out really nice, flavor is good, pineapple-apricot-butterscotchy as described above in the pie, color is a deep amber yellow, and seeds are distributed evenly throughout. The recipe yielded 5 pint jars, plus about half a cup leftover. It has set up decently, not really firm, but like a soft fruit spread.

    I think you were right, Solanaceae, when you described the texture/consistency as being fig-like -- especially if no additional liquid is added to the recipe. I wanted to include the pineapple juice to jazz up the flavor a bit without altering it too much. Next batch, though, I'm going to make without the added liquid, to try to get a thicker product.

    SE Michigan

  • schoolhouse_gw

    Dennis, I sent your jam recipe to my friend. I don't think she's ever tried to make jam (maybe I'll get some of her efforts! ha)

  • schoolhouse_gw

    Our county fair is in full swing right now. Just thought I'd share this photo that was in this morning's paper: (not my blue ribbon - belongs to a lady named Thelma G.)


  • aulani

    Great post, schoolhouse! They look so delicious.

    Everyone, here's a real easy recipe for ground cherry jam like they fix it in Hawaii where they call it Poha.

    Poha jam

    3 lb. poha (ground cherries)
    1/4 cup water
    1 cup sugar per cup cooked poha
    1 Tbsp. lemon juice


    Husk and wash fruit. Combine with water and cook slowly for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let stand overnight.

    Measure pulp and juice and combine with an equal quantity of sugar. Return to heat and cook slowly, stirring occasionally for 1 hour.

    Add lemon juice and continue slow cooking until product reaches jelly stage.

    Immediately pour into hot sterilized glasses and seal. (I froze my jam.)

    Note: If you cook it to the jelly stage, there shouldn't be any reason to have to freeze it.


  • gillestessier

    Does anyone have a jelly recipe for ground cherries. I hate seeds

  • wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

    I love ground cherry pie. My grandmother had them in the garden and I have had them for years. They tend to germinate as volunteers in June and used to be my worst weed perhaps!
    I tried planting them or letting them grow in a crowded fashion and that is when I had lots of insect damage. When left here and there in the garden, they have very few "worms".

  • aulani

    Here's another interesting link to poha. Check out the interesting way they have of planting by setting the plants inside a container with a little trellis and then keeping the container on top of landscape cloth. That would certainly keep the ground bugs off. Hmmmmm.....


    Gillestessier, I'm not a jelly maker, but I'm guessing that you should be able to make jelly by making the jam recipe then straining in cheesecloth. Those seeds are real fine.

  • christie_sw_mo

    Bringing this back to the top.

    How many different varieties of Ground Cherries are there?

    Are some not good for fresh eating?

  • ruthieg__tx

    I actually have seeds from last year and you all have made me want to try them. I intended to plant them last year and had a medical diagnosis that prevented it, so I think I will see if I can get them to germinate.

  • reign

    I've been hooked since the first time I grew them. I grow Aunt Molly and Cossack Pineapple. After you grow them once, you never have to plant them again. Except to try new varieties. ;-)

  • christie_sw_mo

    Reign - Which one of those do you like better for fresh eating? Are they about the same size?

  • reign

    I like Aunt Molly better for fresh eating. Cossack was a little bigger. Not enough to matter.

  • solanaceae

    I thought I would dig up a photo of my hanging container experiments. While not enough for pie on its own the plant will size itself to the container. Its more like an alpine straw berry in this role. You can plant them anywhere. I have seedlings ready to go this year but I may have already spotted some volunteers.


    I will be rotating to another spot as I did have some late season worms taking about 25% of the berries but I also will have BT ready for them.

  • blessed_garden

    Hello all, I live in Austin TX and was wondering two things.
    1)Is it too late to plant these? WE have a first frost usually in November.
    2)This is my first summer EVER trying to grow anything from seed. I can send a SASE to anyone who is willing to share some seeds with me. I would be most appreciative.

    Thanks and Blessings

  • susancol

    blessed garden,

    I don't have any seeds to share until my ground cherries are ready to harvest. But you can order seeds pretty cheap from Pinetee. www.superseeds.com

    They're listed as Pineapple Tomatillos and are a whole $1.10 per packet. That's $4.85 with shipping, and I'll bet you can't buy just one packet of seeds!

    Hope that helps!

  • promethean_spark

    I could send you some seed.
    There are volunteers coming up where last years plants were. Around august they outproduced the kid's ability to eat them. Mine came from fedco. The packet contained about 500 seed, plenty to share...

  • penserosa

    So happy to find this thread. This is my first year growing Aunt Molly's ground cherries and some of them just don't look too nice. I collected them through the summer and let them sit in a single layer on my kitchen island. I didn't know if I'd have enough for a pie, so tonight I husked them - only about 1 1/4 cups of nice cherries.

    Problem is, several of the fruits are rock hard, with a mottled appearance. (Sorta looks like human skin when it has a rash with edema.) Am I supposed to cook these too? Does anyone know what happened to them? I'm wondering if it could be the heat here in the Midatlantic this year, the way tomatoes have green shoulders in hot weather.

    Here's a photo:



  • wild_forager

    I'm not sure about how they fare in zone 10. I planted a different variety (a name I can't recall), and I've never seen a "hard" one. I consider the fruit ripe when the husk is entirely dry and has no color, except perhaps for a tad of yellow due to the color of the fruit shwoing through. If you let them sit for too long they will get pale and nasty looking, but that takes some time. The way I harvest is as soon as I see a change from green to slightly yellow on the husk I life it gently. If it's ready it pops right off into my hand. I then leave it in the sun for about three days, at which point it's ready to eat and oh so sweet.

    I don't see anything visually wrong with the fruits in your picture. The ones that are pale rashy look probably are getting old but should still be good. I've had them turn entirely white, at which point I throw them out,

  • penserosa

    Thanks, wild forager - it was really hard to get a picture that showed what I was talking about. The fruits were just really hard and looked like they had poison ivy!

  • wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana


    It is likely too late to plant them now and get a good crop even though they are late comer uppers.

    It sure is a great ground cherry year here. The volunteer plants are huge and loaded like never before. Whenever I sowed the seeds in continuous rows with 2 or 3 rows side by side, some insect would make a hole in most of the husks. So I just let one or two volunteer here and there and they are always ok.

  • momlovesdirt

    I still am confused on the ripeness issue of ground cherries left in the husk. Some turn lovely orange. Others become "greenish-yellow" with the fruit being transparent so seeds are easily seen. The husks are dry, papery and tan. I want to be sure that these "greenies", as well as the golden ones with green shoulders, are safe to eat. Are cherries ripe and safe when the husk is dry no matter what the fruit looks like? Does it make a difference if they are picked from the plant or as "dropped" fruit?

  • mariastephens00

    I am in zone 9 it is May 19. Is it too late to plant them? and would any of you care to sell me some seeds please?
    email me at mariastephens00@gmail.com
    Thank you thank youuuuu :-D

  • gwynedd1_sbclobal_net

    Thought I'd come back to this thread.

    The worm is called Heliothis subflexa. Its a Physalis specialist.


    These plants lack linolenic acid in the fruits which is usually defensive, but not in this case. The pest has adapted. I have certainly seen wild ground cherry in my area so that is the source. The worms will often travel from one cherry to the other as I have noticed and the article mentions. So do not pile in a bowl if you have this problem, and your loses will be far reduced.

    If you are trying to get enough for a pie, you can freeze them very easily.

    Berries that are not quite ripe will usually be a poorer flavor anyway due to low sugar and the possible lingering of the toxins. They are often infected by the worm when this is the case.

  • trast

    Okay, I just planted ground cherries for the first time and was enjoying them over the course of summer. Made a pie. Now when I went to make some jam, as I was shucking them, I noticed some worms in my bowl. Didn't think anything of it until I cut one open and found the worm inside. I found a few more and was wondering if all of them had a worm inside but it hadn't hatched yet. This really grossed me out because you can't see the worms until you cut them open. Any thoughts?

  • wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

    I ONLY had insect trouble when I planted them concentrated together. The worms...um ...night make good protein.

    Ground cherries volunteer like nothing else but purslane and amaranth.

  • tracydr

    Can one ground cherry still make fruit or do you need more then one plant? I only had one seedling survive when I set them out this summer. It's doing well but hasn't set fruit yet, maybe due to the extreme heat but I'm wondering if it's because it's by itself.

  • zuni

    Some historical trivia: The first explorers, including Champlain, picked ground cherries on their voyages southward along the eastern seaboard. They are very closely related to the tomatillo, but they are not the same fruit.

    My ground cherry is over 5 feet in diameter and sprawling beyond the raised bed. My #2 plant is in the front garden, and barely 10 inches across. I think full sun is imperative.

    I planted Aunt Molly's. The seed packet warned they germinate poorly... about 60%. I found a heat mat under the seed tray helps germination.

    When the fruit started dropping a month ago, there were only 3 or 4 a day. Now I am getting between 1 and 2 dozen a day, and there are many more nearly ripe.

    I would sure appreciate someone telling just how ripe is RIPE. Lots of my early harvest still had a tinge of green when they fell off the vine. I kept putting them in a freezer bag, but now I am afraid to use them.

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