Known as Cape Gooseberry, goldenberry, Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry, or husk cherry, this tangy fruit resembles a tomatillo and is also part of the nightshade family.
It grows well in foggy mild climes in direct sun. The husk cherry plant is a sprawling shrub, amenable to trellising or being contained in a tomato cage. It does well in sandy, well-drained soil. Like tomatoes, it fruits best if suckers are pruned.
Plant seeds anytime in mild climates or after the last frost in colder zones. Press into the ground and lightly cover. The seeds are slow to germinate. After several months, the plant should have flowers and small husked berries. These take another few months to grow and sweeten.
When the husk turns yellow and begins to dry, the fruits may be ripe. Take a peek through the lacey husk. If you’re impatient, it’s ready to eat once it has an orange hue and comes off easily from the stem. Or just wait for it to fall from the plant to the ground – then it’s ready, for you and the animals. A delicacy wrapped by nature.
Where are the Seeds from?
At Hayes Valley Farm, a temporary garden project in the heart of San Francisco, we practiced permaculture principles and sought out hard-to-find perennial crops. Enter the ground cherry. Heralding from the Andes, this sprawling shrub became our farm treat of choice. We were exploring how to bring nature back into our lives and what nature even meant when buildings went up all around us and our friends moved from place to place in the rapidly gentrifying spaces around us.
Still, we grew food and habitat for animals and humans, practicing what it meant to touch the soil. For three years, we created this farm in the city, luring birds and volunteers into lush fields and chaotic beauty. Once our temporary stay was up, industrial trucks dug it away in a few days. Like the Dodo bird, we had our long moment of giddiness, snacking on magical berries, persevering with laughter.
What’s left? These seeds.
What’s next? Plant the seeds, and bring back the wild.