Fenton Friday: Why, Hello There, Little Ground Cherry

I was clearing out some unruly tomato vines from my community garden plot this week, when I looked down and saw a small Ground Cherry (Physalis spp.) plant had self-sown among them. It had several fruits on it and even a few that were already ripe and on the ground (hence their common name). I gave them to the intern to try and they both exclaimed over how very deceptively sweet they are -- they are the best kept secret of the edible garden, in my opinion. Animals and other humans ignore them. They take zero maintenance. They grow literally like the native weeds that they are... and they taste like candy. Who can find fault in that?

By the way, you can find out all about sourcing and growing Ground Cherries in our September 2014 back issue of Washington Gardener Magazine posted here.

How is your edible garden growing?

About Fenton Friday:
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 5th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)


I got to know ground cherries (or Cape gooseberries) while living in Rwanda in the late 1990s. At that time, they were the easier fruit to find there, and I could buy a bucketful for next to nothing. They make great pie and cobbler filling. Just toss them (uncut) with sugar and butter (and any flavorings that you might use for a peach pie) and put them on or under the pastry and bake. My oldest daughter really liked gooseberry pies, and after we moved back to D.C., I thought I would make her one. Unfortunately, I found out that they were exotic fruit at Whole Foods and cost almost $5 for a tiny basket.

Afterwards I tried to grow them, without much success. But I may have given them too much attention. Apparently, they do like neglect and poor-ish soil.
Thanks for sharing, Cindy. As they are a native weed here, benign neglect is the best path of "care" for them. You can let them self-sow, start from seed, or buy started seedlings in the spring.

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