Saturday, June 25, 2011

What I'm Growing - Physalis Pruinosa (Aunt Molly Ground Cherry)

Here's a new series that will hopefully get me posting a little more regularly.  Each week or so I'll feature one of the plants growing in this years garden.  The list keeps getting longer and longer, so it guarantees me plenty of material!

This weeks' featured plant is called the Aunt Molly Ground Cherry, Latin name Physalis Pruinosa.  Ground Cherries are totally new to me.  I stumbled upon them while reading garden blogs about tomatillos and when I learned that they were sort of a berry, and they were annuals, I was intrigued. Most of the berries I know of are perennials and you don't usually get much or any fruit the first year.  I've been wanting to try blackberries or raspberries, but they take a few years to start producing and they require a more permanent home than I'm willing to give them at this point.

Ground cherries, on the other hand, grow from seed and produce fruit all in one year.  They are a member of the nightshade family, similar to a tomato.  The fruits grow in a husk which hangs from the plant and looks a bit like a Chinese lantern.  The plant blooms, and the calyx (green leafy part at the base of the bloom) grows and closes up to form a little pouch of sorts which grows to be the husk. The fruit grows into a little marble sized berry inside of the husk and falls to the ground when ripe, thus the name. When ripe, the fruits are a golden color and have many tiny seeds inside.

The plants are known by many names (with slight variances between varieties, although I get conflicting information as to what the differences in taste are) such a Cape Gooseberry, Pahoa, Inca Berry, and Golden Berry.  Anyone who is asked what the fruit tastes like will likely give a different answer.  I've heard of them being compared to pineapple, strawberry, mango, vanilla, custard, lime (sounds like this person's weren't ripe enough), with a hint of tomato flavor.  I can't really imagine any of these flavors being bad, so I'm ridiculously excited to try them out!  The three plants that I am growing this year have a particularly interesting/pathetic story behind them, but I'll save that for another post. :)