Ground Cherry plantGroundcherry plants are part of the Nightshade family and in some areas are considered invasive plant species. Several Groundcherry plant species are found growing wild in Florida, I had the one pictured here volunteer in my garden this fall. I think the seeds came in a load of top soil I used.

Groundcherries are a member of the nightshade family, related to tomatoes and tomatillos, and enjoy similar growing conditions. Groundcherries thrive in the heat. Treat them as annuals, but like tomatoes, you may get some volunteer seedlings the following year. They are sometimes referred to as husk tomatoes or chinese lanterns.

Ground Cherry podsThe green husks hanging from a Groundcherry will turn brown, and then when the fruit is finally ripe they will…you got it…fall on the ground! That’s how you know they are ripe. The ripe fruit color will vary by species and ranges from a light green to golden yellow.

Groundcherries still wrapped in their natural brown husks can be stored in a bowl on the counter for several weeks. Once peeled, the fruit will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks.Ground Cherry pod

I like them right off the ground from the garden as a snack, but you can also use them in jam, chutneys or pies. You can toss them into green salads, or chop them into a spicy sweet salsa.

Unfortunately my volunteer plant fruits were not as tasty as a golden ripe Aunt Molly variety of Groundcherry, but a snack is a snack.

My favorite plants are the ones that seed themselves and grow. I just show up to harvest.

That’s the way it I like it in the 40 Acre Woods.

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