Some vegetables are just fun. We've been growing ground cherries for years. This tomato-family vegetable looks like a mini version of a tomatillo. It's a sprawling 2-foot tall plant that produces an abundance of green turning to brown papery husks. Inside the husk is the fun part. Small, cherry-sized fruits mature from green to golden. Unwrap the husk, harvest and snack on the fruits. They taste like a cross between a tomato and pineapple. They are sweet and delicious and something kids really love.
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If you can grow tomatoes or tomatillos, you can grow ground cherries. Even if you missed the opportunity to start them this spring, look for transplants in garden centers or in a friend's garden. Ground cherry plants produce hundreds of fruits and they self-sow readily. Once you grow them in your garden, you'll have seedlings each spring for years. Ask your friends and family if they have grown ground cherries and you might be able to transplant some seedling plants into a container or your raised bed.
Like tomatoes, plant ground cheeries in full sun on well-drained fertile soil. Keep well watered and weeded and they will take care of themselves. Watch for potato beetles on the leaves and handpick the adults, larvae and eggs. Wait until the husks turn brown to harvest and then make jams, pies or salsa from the cherries, if you can resist eating them all in the garden as a snack. Another nice trait of ground cherries is they have a long shelf life, for a tomato-like fruit, and can be kept for a few weeks in the refrigerator.