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When Are Ground Cherries Ripe?

When Are Ground Cherries Ripe

So when are ground cherries ripe? The simple answer is, when they fall to the ground. That’s probably a good reason they are called ground cherries.

The ground cherry is an intriguing fruit. It’s in the same family as the tomato and has a sweet flavor.

When you think cherries most will think about the popular red cherry. Others will think the same and then take it to the next level thinking about those delicious alcoholic umbrella drinks.

Okay, back onto ground cherries.

So when they fall to the ground they are telling you they are ripe. Ground cherries are encased inside a husk much like a tomatillo.

So when you see a ground cherry on the ground, chances are that it’s fallen from the plant signaling to anyone or anything within its vicinity that it is ripe and ready.

When Can You Eat Ground Cherries?

how to cook ground cherriesThis may sound a little like asking when are ground cherries ripe? There is a slight difference.

Obviously, when they fall to the ground you can be pretty rest assured that they are ready to eat.

But that’s not always the case.

When the ground cherry is yellow thats a good sign it’s ripe. But some fall to the ground still free or with a strong green tinge to them.

In fact, I remember one season where the majority of the ground cherries I picked up off the ground were greenish in color.

So what do you do? Do you still eat them? Eating a ground cherry still a little green really impact the flavor you get. It’s unpleasant and you want to avoid it.

Also, a ground cherry that is not ripe will be poisonous. In fact, it contains solanine which is a poison often found in members of the nightshade family.

This can be a natural occurring substance which we have no control of other than not to eat fruit and vegetables like ground cherries when they are still green. This way you eliminate the risk of being affected.

Now that you know, never force a ground cherry to fall to the ground and never forcefully pick one off the plant.

When it drops to the ground it should be ripe. However, just to make sure, I like to collect them and put them in a bowl. I then simply leave them on the counter for five to seven days and by this time, they are good to go.

So when are ground cherries ripe? When they fall to the ground.

When should you eat ground cherries? After they are fully yellow. Put them in a bowl for a week.

Can You Grow Them At Home?

picking fresh berriesYes you can. One of the things I often tell people is if you want a good crop of ground cherries then toss those that are over ripe out into your yard.

The chances they take root and grow are strong. They are a pretty hardy fruit.

But that’s not what a good gardener does right? Pretty soon you’ll have ground cherries growing over the top of your other produce.

They prefer warmer climates although please don’t dismiss them if you live in cool to cold climates such as Canada. Growing ground cherries inside is a perfect alternative.

But essentially, the warmer the soil the better for this fruit. As with the tomatillo, generally plant after your last frost event.

I know this can be difficult to predict but technology today is so good, future weather predictions are a breeze.

So make sure they have access to at least eight hours of sunshine a day. A mistake many gardeners make is to plant produce like ground cherries near trees or under them.

Don’t do this with ground cherries. Make sure they are out in the open or at least not being overshadowed by trees. They love it.

In really hot climates, a tree nearby maybe a good idea as they don’t mind a little afternoon shade. But basically, make sure they get a good look at the sun for best growth opportunities.

Ground cherries can absorb one to two inches of water. In fact, they absorb more. I advise against over watering or at the very least, don’t let water simply build up and sit.

Add mulch to your ground cherry patch as this is great in helping preserve the soil moisture.

A plant will produce between 200-300 berries a season.

Conclusion: When Are Ground Cherries Ripe?

what do ground cherries look likeI wasn’t planning to write a long article on answering the question of when are ground cherries ripe.

Let’s look at some important facts before we close it out.

In a nutshell, wait until they fall off the plant. They are called ground cherries for a reason. Take them out of the husk they’re covered in and if they are yellow, they they are considered ripe.

But just to make sure, put them in a bowl and leave them on your counter for up to seven days.

They will ripen pretty quickly the warmer the climate. If they look like they are ready to eat in the bowl and you have a salsa in the planning, to preserve their condition, just store them in the fridge. I prefer the crisper drawer as they won’t react too well to really cold temperatures. About 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit should be ideal.

When they are fully ripe, the ground cherry can be a great source of nutrients. For example, they are rich in Vitamins A, 3 and C.

Ground cherries are hardy little plants which can regenerate on their own. If you leave fruit on the ground and the berry is allowed to find it’s ground and evolve naturally, chances are a ground cherry plant will  be in that spot next season.

Let me know about your ground cherry experience. They have really become an integral part of our diets in the United States in particular.

If you have a recipe involving these cherries I’d love to hear it if you don’t mind sharing.I know they are great in salsa and on their own.


When Is A Ground Cherry Ripe
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JD Dean

Growing up on a farm gave me and my family some huge advantages. One of them was learning to grow our own food. Apart from acres and acres of crops, we had a magnificent fruit and vegetable garden plus, we canned our own food. I’m hoping to pass on some of this expertise and experience to you.

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