The Q&A Archives: Ground Cherries

Question: My mother used to grow an edible plant called ground cherry which resembled a weed which she said was poisonous. The fruit was yellow and was inside a paper shell. The plant grew close to the ground. Can you tell me anything about this plant, if seed is available, and how to identify it from the weed?

Answer: Ground cherries, Physalis pruinosa, (AKA: Husk Cherry, strawberry tomato) are related to tomatoes, but produce a bush that's lower to the ground. It produces tons of papery husks, like a tomatillo or Chinese lantern, but inside is cherry tomato sized fruit that will turn yellow when mature. It has a sweet taste, but the flavor definintely is on the side "wild" side. Some people love them, and others think the taste too exotic. You only have to grow 1 or 2 plants, since they are very prolific. They also make good pies.
They are a member of the Nightshade family, and of course the plant known as "nightshade" is poisonous. Only eat "ground cherries" that you have grown, someone you trust has grown, or that you purchase from a reputable dealer. I found seed available from Blum's. You can reach them at
and, seeds are also available through Johnny's Selected Seeds, Albion, ME. They are grown similar to a tomato.

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