All About Ground Cherries

This year I sold physalis peruviana, or ground cherries, as it is more commonly known, at my local farmer’s markets. Most people had never heard of it before. I began to research it, and decided I had to make a blog post about this amazing fruit.

Ground cherries, also known as Cape gooseberry(South Africa),Inca berry,Aztec berry,Golden berry,Giant ground cherry,Peruvian groundcherry,Peruvian cherry,Pok pok(Madagascar),Poha(Hawaii),Ras bhari(India),Aguaymanto(Peru),Uvilla(Ecuador),Uchuva(Colombia),Harankash(Egypt) or (rarely)Physalis, are closely related to the tomatillo and chinese lantern, and more distantly, tomato, eggplant, potato, and other members of the nightshade family. Contrary to what the name implies, it is not related to the cherry or gooseberry family. It is grown all over the world in tropical,, subtropical, and temperate climates. Ground cherries are small, approzimately 1-2 cm in diameter, and are enclosed in a papery husk. When cut open, it looks similar to a tomato. It is sweet but slightly tart, and is said to taste similar to pineapple, strawberries, or citrus fruits, with an earthy undertone.

This fruit has amazing benefits for your health. It is high in vitamins A, C, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. The ripe fruits also have a concentration of beta-carotene. It also has significant amounts of calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, bioflavonoids, protein, and fiber.

 

Vitamin A

  • Great for vision
  • Helps immune and inflammatory systems to work correctly
  • Helps with normal cell growth and development
  • Essential for the reproductive systems

 

Vitamin C

  • Essential to the immune system
  • An antioxidant, which prevents damage or death of cells
  • A natural antihistamine (allergy relief)
  • Reduces chance of stroke
  • Protects against Parkinson’s disease

 

Thiamin, also known as B1

  • Helps protect the nerves
  • Great for mental health
  • Essential to metabolism, especially with carbohydrates
  • Lowers chance of cataracts

 

Riboflavin, also known as B2

  • Necessary for iron metabolism
  • Prevents headaches/migraines
  • Maintains other B vitamins

 

Niacin, also known as B3

  • Raises HDL (good) cholesterol levels
  • Helps cardiac health
  • Good for treating depression, senility, and memory loss
  • Improves joint flexibilty and relieves pain and swelling due to arthritis

 

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin

  • Helps children to develop properly
  • Improves mental health; may even stop Alzheimer’s disease , if caught early on
  • Greatly reduces risk of pernicious anemia
  • Helps with cell renewal, keeping you young and fresh

 

On top of all these wonderful vitamins, ground cherries only have 53 calories per 3.5 oz serving, and 1 gram of fat. Because of the large amount of fiber, eating ground cherries will help you to feel full faster, keeping you from overeating and therefore helping you lose weight. These wonderful berries have no sodium, and have a low glycemic index score. The high amount of pectin aids in absorbing calcium , which is necessary for strong bones. Ground cherries also do wonders for your cells, having anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; it has been shown to inhibit cancer, particularly lung, colon, and liver varieties. It is also a diuretic (meaning it helps remove water and sodium through urine), and can be used to aid fluid retention and other such issues. In folk medicine, ground cherries have been used to treat asthma. dermatitis, hepatitis, malaria. and rheumatism .It has been found to have some melatonin, which helps improve and regulate sleep, prevents degenerative diseases, prevents migraines, and protects against reproductive organ cancers.

There are many ways to include this wonderful berry into your diet. It can be added to salads containing fruit or vegetables, canned, or made into a jam or sauce. Because of the high pectin content, it makes a wonderful pie or tart. They can also be dried and eaten like raisins. Add to ice cream, or crush and swirl in for an interesting flavor combination. To add sweetness, you may prick the skin and roll in sugar. You can also try making salsa, cake, or adding to your cereal. However, it is just as nice to eat them as is.

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  1. I love ground cherries and could not find any nutritional info about them anywhere in my books – this article is so detailed and now I love ground cherries even more knowing how healthful they are!!!

    Can’t wait to continue to eat them as they ripen through the remainder of fall / early winter

    Kasia

  2. mountain woman

    I love you for this report. I had them growing wild in my garden. First book contact: they are poisonous. I pulled them out the first year, eating a few. The next year a mountain man told me abouit grandmother’s ground cherry pie. I let them grow and started eating them raw, So very delicious and precious.

    • Michelle Blackwood

      They are so delicious, have some in my garden that I’m waiting to harvest. I might just make a pie with them!

  3. My grandmother grew these and I haven’t had any since I was a little girl. She made preserves out of them. I recently found some at a Farmer’s Market here and I was so excited I couldn’t wait to get them home! If anyone knows where I can get some seeds and tips on how to get these to grow, please please let me know. I live in Iowa and everyone thinks you are talking about husk tomato’s and they don’t know what ground cherries are. Help….Thanks….

    • Michelle Blackwood

      I have some growing in my garden now, you can just take seeds from the ones you bought from the farmers market and allow them to dry for next years growing season. You can also purchase seeds online from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed company.

      • Michelle..this is going to be a silly question, but do I get the seed from the ground cherry itself? I have to plants growing in my garden now. I love ground cherries alot and want to always have them. Another question..I live in Eastern Ontario Canada…can I dig up my ground cherry plants and bring them in the house in planters…would they stay alive?

        • Michelle Blackwood

          Joanne, there is no silly question :) Yes the seed itself is fine. I’m not sure about your zone but here in Ohio if you let the fruits that drop on the ground remain, they will reseed and multiply. I’m not sure that you can bring the plant inside, so why not save some seeds before you take the plant indoors.

        • My husband used to work at Veseys Seeds in PEI. They had them growing in their trial garden. They only planted them once, and they self seeded from then on. I have some growing in my garden this year, so I am going to leave a bunch of them on the plants and see if I can get some volunteers next year. The ones I planted this year, I started inside in April. They looked pretty pathetic for quite awhile and just recently took off like crazy.

    • Seed savers in Decorah (NE Iowa ) sells a heirloom ground cherry. I think its called Aunt Molly’s. Just got done eating a handful. Was feeling guilty about it until i read this article.

    • Nicole McAlpine

      I’m from Iowa also and I can find them at our local farmer market. They are yummy! I eat them as a snack. My kids love em too.

  4. I just found these wonderful ground cherries a few weeks ago when I stopped at a little Amish fruit stand. After that first pint, needless to say, I went back for more, and after reading everything here, I am going to go back and get many. They also had a pie, which I bought, and it was out of this world.
    My ground is clay, so do I have to get good topsoil to grow some of these? And you said to keep the seeds until next Spring, do we keep the entire cherry? The seeds are so very small.
    I am so very glad that I googled ground cherry nutritional values and found this page. Thank you so very much.

    • Michelle Blackwood

      I can imagine how delicious the pie was. You can dehydrate the ground cherries or remove the seeds. Treat it the same as you would when you are saving tomato seeds.

  5. For the past weeks my ground cherries do not seem to ripen. However there are many many empty hulls under the plant, like they have fallen off and been eaten from the inside. I see no bugs or ants. What is happening. Yes, the hulls are opened. But no cherry any more. They started out wonderful this summer, and now have lots of green cherries, but the ripe hulls are piled up underneath, but are empty. Puzzled!

    • Michelle Blackwood

      Wow Betty that’s so strange, maybe a small nocturnal creature is enjoying them. So sorry, my tree has a lot of ground cherries on still but they just haven’t ripened as yet.

      5.0

      Raccoons love them (at least I am pretty sure that’s who I was sharing mine with) Lucky I planted lots. They are very easy to grow.

  6. Just came across this site. Great information. I like to add something in view of the questions asked about seeds. Don’t worry. Just spread some of the fruit on your garden. Once you till them under in the fall the seeds will grow spontaneously in the spring. Some view ground cherries an invasive specie. I guess they are. Doesn’t matter what soil you have. They will thrive. The good thing about them is that they are easily weeded. Just keep enough to meet your needs. The following fall there will be enough fruit dropped on the ground and many of these, once again tilled under, will give you, more plants you ever thought possible.
    BTW. After harvest I pull out all the plants and compost them. New slate for spring.
    My wife makes jams and pies. All delicious and nutritious too I found out.

  7. Thank you Michelle for this article! Just discovered ground cherries at a farm and the farmer’s market last year. They are a fantastic fall treat and good to know how healthy they are!
    I was wondering about the B12 though, since it is thought to be found in animal food only except in rare cases where animal fluids are left on the plant. Is this the only plant that contains B12?

  8. Ahammad kabeer

    Could you provide me more information on this article and also varies ground cherries or gooseberry.. and its use in medical purpose. i am doing a project on this.

    i need authentic information. please do help me on this

  9. Can you tell me if I am correct I read that they are high in carbs I hope I’m wrong … I count net carbs, carbs minus the fiber

  10. I have several volunteer plants (Minnesota) but NONE of the unopened husks have berries in them! What do you think happened? We planted last year, then husband pulled it up and threw it onto another spot. I have always liked ground cherries, since I was a little girl, but tend to forget about them each “garden planting season”. Hard to find the plants in nurseries!

  11. My real question is, what does anyone use to strain the seeds if they want to make ground cherry jam or jelly without seeds? My gut doesn’t tolerate the seeds, but I have many, many quarts of ground cherries sitting here waiting to be used for something. The good thing is, the longer you leave them in their little paper husks, the more golden they get and sweeter, too.

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