Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An other kind of cherry and another kind of search engine

First of all, something that will probably interest gardeners. Mr Brown Thumb has tweaked the Google search engine to give us gardeners better search results. For anyone who gets frustrated because commercial sites hog all Google's resources, try this simple alternative. I've used it several times and was please it gave me many alternatives to my searches using the basic Google engine. My Brown Thumb personally reviewed gardening sites and ranked them based on useful information about plants and other related topics. Google for Gardeners can be found by clicking the link.

I added Google for Gardeners to my Google home page by clicking on 'add stuff'' on the upper right of the Google page. When the 'add gadget' page appeared I typed the word gardeners into the search box.

Thank you Mr Brown Thumb for giving us this tool to expand our knowledge and become better gardeners;)


My second topic is about some research on new plants I plan to add to my garden this spring.

Recently I went to a seminar on gardening in my area. One of our TV weathermen, who lectures on bee keeping and gardening, was talking about his recent gardening experiences. Somehow the conversation turned to ground cherries. He told me he loves ground cherry pie and I admitted although I remember hearing about them, I'd never eaten the fruit.

After doing a little research, I decided to add them to my garden next spring.

If you're not familiar with ground cherries or cape gooseberries (
Physalis peruviana), this is what I learned. They are a member of the nightshade family along with tomatoes and peppers. In appearance they look much like their close relative the decorative Chinese lantern (Physalis alkekengi). The fruit is firm with a refreshing flavor sometimes likened to a combination of strawberries, pineapples and tomatoes. The plants are 1-3 feet in height and more upright than a tomato plant. They are grown as annuals in the colder northern zones and perennials in warmer areas.

Usually started from seed they grow and bloom quickly. Once they begin blooming they continue until frost so you will have a long season of fruiting. They require full sun and aren't particular about soil. Keep watered during development and then cut back on water as the fruit matures. You can judge the ripeness as the husk turns brown. Many people wait until the fruit falls from the bush judging this to be the perfect stage for eating. Just remember the birds will be watching too so don't leave them out there very long;)

Ground cherries can be a little bland when eaten raw but make excellent additions to salads, salsa, jams and jellies, and are most often treated like other fruits in pies, cakes and muffins. It is reported this fruit was a favorite of the Amish and Mennonites and I found many of their recipes for ground cherry pie.

Searching google I collected dozens of recipes including cupcakes and
tiny pies in muffin tins,
fruit drinks, custard, and turnovers.

(Photo courtesy Veseys who sells seed)

A simple Amish recipe for pie.

  • 2-1/2 cups ground cherries
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 (9 inch) pie shell
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Wash ground cherries and place in unbaked pie shell. Mix brown sugar and 1 tablespoon flour and sprinkle over cherries. Sprinkle water over top. Mix together 3 tablespoons flour and 3 tablespoons sugar. Cut butter in until crumbly. Top cherry mixture with crumbs.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and continue to bake for 25 minutes until crumbs are golden brown.

Reimer Seeds has seed for sale as does Solan Seeds and Veseys who also have yummy pie recipes. Remember the leaves and stems of the plant may be poisonous. Be careful, especially if you are starting seeds inside (8-weeks before last expected frost). You wouldn't want a child or kitty munching on the seedlings.


Sherri said...

Marnie, thanks for all this information. I have seen ground cherries before but didn't know what they were. I didn't know you could make things to eat out of them! Thanks for the Google for Gardners too! You are just a wealth of information today and I thank you!!

Zach said...

Wow, I think I have some of these seeds in my seed collection. You shoulf see if anyone has any to trade. Unless you are looking for a particular type of seed.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marnie, thanks for all this good info, and thanks to Mr. Brownthumb for that helpful list! We have these too and I didn't know what they were either. They grow wild here and I was hoping they were Chinese lanterns, but the husks never turned red, only brown. I didn't even look inside at the fruit, the birds probably get them quickly. Love the pie recipe, thanks!

F Cameron said...

The ground cherries are fascinating! I had no idea.

Anyone with a valid blog/website can sign up for Google Adsense (pay per click program) to create customized search engines with Google.


A Wild Thing said...

Way...way...back in the day, I made ground cherry jam...all I can remember is it was good on cornbread...that was the same year I found gooseberries on my property, my daughter was two...so yes, a few years have passed...ahh...to forage the meadows and gullies, I can't wait!

Is it spring yet???


Unknown said...

Great informational post!!

Susie said...

I've never heard of ground cherries but have heard of gooseberries. I don't recollect ever seeing one.

Thanks for the info Marnie.

crimsoncat05 said...

My Grandma used to grow ground cherries in her garden every year... I don't remember what they tasted like really, but I do remember eating the currants and the rhubarb; thanks for the flashback!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Sherri, ground cherries are supposed to be extra easy to grow so I wondered if people knew about them.

Hi Zach, I didn't save seed last fall so I don't have much to trade.

Hi Frances, I'm looking forward to the pie!


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Cameron, I wouldn't have the time to research but I certainly appreciate the effort Mr Brown Thumb put into modifying the search engine.

Hi Sharon, maybe you have some growing in your area. I have brambles all around me that the birds and I share.

Susie, if you ever come across them see if you like the taste.


Roses and Lilacs said...

CrimsonCat, so many things I read remind me of happy times spent in Grandma's or my parent's gardens. I'm glad this gave you one of those moments.

Gail said...


Love the ground cherries! Thanks for ther info on growing them. Last fall I went to Blithewood and Layanee (Ledge and Gardens), Kris (head gardener) and I stood around eating them off the plants. They were delicious! Thanks for the google search info. I have hellebore seedlings that I can send you...let me know and this spring I will ship them off with the PPPP I also offered. gail

Roses and Lilacs said...

Gail, you're the first one I've found who actually remembers eating them. I'll drop by your site to talk about he seedlings.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the link and for helping promote Google For Gardeners.

Hope everyone finds it a useful resource.

Anonymous said...

hi! thanks for the link, and what a great site, I'm loving it! I love ground cherries, and I'm excited to try the Amish recipe you've posted. they have such a unique flavor. I wonder how they would grow in a container garden (for us urban gardeners!) :)

Anonymous said...

Marnie..Thank you for the search engine as I have tried to look things up and it is all commercial, so I am going to bookmark that. I had never heard of ground cherries. I hope they will grow well for you..Michelle..

Jan said...

Wow, what a great idea Mr Brown Thumb had--and thanks to you for sharing it with all of us garden bloggers!
Those cherries look really interesting in the 'chinese lantern-shaped case'. The recipe sounds rather yummy too!

Naturegirl said...

This was so interesting about the ground cherry! Thank you for saring..I think I'll try growing some if I can find it in the stores!

Iowa Gardening Woman said...

I have ground cherries that are volunteers in my garden, they hitch hiked along with some rhubarb that someone gave me years and years ago. My mother is crazy for ground cherries and ground cherry pie. Interesting about the google for gardeners.......I am going to check that out, thanks.

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Marnie, my dad loved gooseberry pie. I remember it being very sour like ruhbarb, but I am wondering if he didn't like to pick them before they were ripe--that sounds like something he would have done.

Thanks for the info on the search engine...I can't wait to try it out.

BeadedTail said...

I've never heard of ground cherries before but I love cherries so I'm glad to learn of a different kind! Thanks for all the information!

beckie said...

Marnie, somewhere, sometime I have eaten these and seen them growing. I knew exactly what you were talking about befroe seeing the picture, but I'll be darned if I can remember! They should be fun to grow and even more fun to eat.

I'll have to check out the Google thing. I do get frustrated with any of the search engines and all the commercial sites. Thaks to both of you.

Randy said...

I've never heard of ground cherries in my life!? I'm going to have to research this a little more, very interesting post!--Randy

oldcrow61 said...

I bought a few ground cherry plants from the greenhouses a couple of years ago but didn't have much luck with them. Thanks for all the info.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Mr BrownThumb, I think lot of us will find your Google for Gardeners very handy.

Hi Megan, I'll bet they could be grown in containers just as tomatoes are. I'd use at least 5-gal and deeper than wide. Please let me know if you try.

Michelle, I agree. I hate sorting thru pages of commercial sites.

Hi Jan, sometimes you just hear about something that strikes your fancy. These little fruits really struck mine. We'll see how they grow and produce.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi NatureGirl, I hope you find some. I think I'll order a package online cause I've never seen them locally.

Iowa Gardening Woman, interesting about them volunteering. Perhaps I'll plant several near my rhubarb plants. Thanks for leaving me a message.

Morning Glories, more sugar;) My grandmother always made rhubarb especially sweet. I've never had gooseberries.

Hi BeadedTail, I don't know why they aren't more common.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Beckie, I'm like you, may have seen them long ago but don't remember. I know I've never eaten them.

Hi Randy, they do sound interesting don't they?

Hi OldCrow, that's discouraging. I'll see what happens this spring.


sweetbay said...

I hadn't heard of ground cherries before. Very interesting!

tina said...

I don't know how I missed this post Marnie, but I am here now. I really like Mr. Brownthumb's resources, he has been a big help to bloggers with technical issues.

I have also seen ground cherries offered as free seed packets with shipments. I've been very afraid to try them but just may have to do that this year. I think I still have the packets as a matter of fact and perhaps even a veggie garden bed. I love homemade jellies. P.S. Sorry about your problems with your redbud.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Sweetbay thanks for stopping to visit.

Hey Tina, I think sometimes the blog roll gets out of sync. It's better than nothing but far from perfect. Are you afraid the ground cherries will seed all over the garden like Chinese Laterns? I wondered about that too. In zone 4/5 with heavy clay I don't worry as much as you folks in warmer zones.

Anonymous said...

That is very cool. I would never have thought of making a pie out of the berries. We lose a lot through the generations don't we. Like I bet our grandma's knew all about this fruit. It does make a pretty refreshing pie.

tina said...

Yes, that is it. I was afraid that since the seeds were for free I better not plant them:) But I may just give it a try.

Anonymous said...

Google for Gardeners sounds great Marnie! Thanks to MrBrownThumb for that and to you for posting the information. I'll have to check it out. I remember Gail talking about eating those ground cherries now that she mentioned it. I've never grown them tho. It sounds like another fruit that you may or may not get depending on who gets there first (you or the birds). Either way, it's a good thing. Keep us posted on how the plants are doing.

flydragon said...

I've never heard of ground cherries. My grandparents were mennonites but I never remember hearing about these. Maybe I had a ground cherry pie but didn't realize it:)

troutbirder said...

I always wondered what they were... and now I know. I will have to try some next summer.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
I had heard of ground cherries but have never seen them ... I'm going to have to show this to Fernymoss and see if he is interested in growing some (he loves pie but I hate it).

They're definitely a nightshade and remind me of Tomatillos (which I used to grow and should again!) with the husks. So many fascinating plants in the nightshade family, some so tasty and others so poisonous....

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi FlowerGardenGirl, we have lost touch with our food chain. I loved watching my Grandmother cook and preserve food. They wasted very little and appreciated wild berries and plants a lot more than we do.

Tina, if we are very diligent about picking the fruit--no worries. I hope we don't regret this;)

LOL, Kathleen you are so right. My birds and I fight over the strawberries and raspberries;)


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Flydragon, maybe you did have some when you were younger. I don't know why they aren't more popular.

Hi Troutbirder, be sure they are ripe.

IVG, I've seen them called pineapple tomatillos. In my latest seed catalog that is the name they are selling the seed under.


Rose said...

I remember my mother picking ground cherries many years ago and making a pie from them. I'm trying to remember exactly what they tasted like, other than having a pretty bland taste. Let us know how you like them!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
I saw that over at my place you asked if Tomatillos self-seeded aggressively ... the few years we grew them we didn't have any (or at least see) rampant seedlings coming up volunteer. I wouldn't worry about it if you decide to plant tomatillos, but I will say that you need to get them out as early as possible in our zone, because ours took a long time to produce fruit, and usually got zapped by frost before they were at full maturity.

Interesting they call those pineapple tomatillos ... since ground cherries don't get very tall ... and a happy tomatillo grows pretty tall (ours topped out at about 6 ft I think).

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

How interesting! I've never heard of ground cherries; thanks so much for sharing. They're a pretty color, too.

Anonymous said...