Don’t let the name fool you—ground cherries have very little in common with those juicy red treats whose blossoms inspire festivals. In fact they’re part of the nightshade family and are related to tomatillos and Chinese lanterns. Like those plants, ground cherries (Physalis peruviana) grow in a protective paper husk.
These marble-sized, orangey fruits have a unique flavour, which is sometimes described as tasting similar to anything from pineapple or cherry to kiwi and tomato. “It’s a unique-looking plant,” says Angus Mellish, seed manager at Veseys Seeds in P.E.I. “And they’re a very under-appreciated garden vegetable!”
Canadian seed companies tend to sell the Aunt Molly’s variety of ground cherries, which comes from Poland. It does well in cooler climates and matures faster than other varieties. Aunt Molly’s has a more citrusy flavour than the Cossack Pineapple variety, which tastes more like an actual pineapple. The Goldie variety will yield more ground cherries per plant, but takes longer than Aunt Molly’s to mature.