GROUND CHER­RIES

Country Gardens - - Garden Know-how -

Some­times called husk cher­ries, ground cher­ries are the fruit of an an­nual plant eas­ily grown from seed. They are in the same fam­ily as toma­toes. The genus Physalis in­cludes many species, in­clud­ing the one that Teresa Brock­man grows,

P. pru­inosa. A sim­i­lar species, P. pe­ru­viana, some­times called cape goose­berry or gold­en­berry, is taller but may be bet­ter suited to warm, dry cli­mates with long grow­ing sea­sons. Other na­tive Physalis species, such as P. mis­sourien­sis and

P. vir­gini­ana, are na­tive to North and Cen­tral Amer­ica, but their fruit is tiny, and the plants can be weedy pests.

HOW TO GROW To give plants a head start and be­gin har­vest­ing sooner, sow seeds in­doors six to eight weeks be­fore last frost. Warm tem­per­a­tures, 75–85°F, are best for ger­mi­na­tion. Trans­plant seedlings in a sunny lo­ca­tion in av­er­age (not very rich) gar­den soil. Seed can be sown di­rectly in the gar­den af­ter the risk of frost is past. Wa­ter weekly in the absence of rain. Mulch with straw, as Teresa does, or with lay­ers of news­pa­per or with plant­ing pa­per. Mulching will keep weeds at a min­i­mum, help main­tain even soil mois­ture, and make har­vest­ing easier.

HOW TO HAR­VEST Al­low fruit to ripen com­pletely and drop from the plant; har­vest by col­lect­ing the fallen fruits. The fruits will ripen slightly inside the pa­pery husk, and they can be kept re­frig­er­ated in the husk for two weeks or more. Re­move the ined­i­ble husk and dis­card it be­fore eat­ing the berries fresh or cooked.

PESTS AND PROB­LEMS Flea bee­tles may cre­ate tiny

holes in the leaves, but they will not sig­nif­i­cantly hurt the plant or fruit pro­duc­tion. Some gar­den­ers may have prob­lems with Spot­ted-wing Drosophila (more in­for­ma­tion on page 22) or other fruit pests—in­spect fruits at har­vest and dis­card those that are dam­aged. Ground cher­ries will read­ily re­seed and may be­come weedy. Com­plete har­vest­ing in the grow­ing sea­son will re­duce seedlings, and hoe­ing in spring will keep new seedlings un­der con­trol.

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