First…adding a bit of humor…
How many names do you know for our wee flower we know as “Johnny Jump Ups“??
One source lists: heart ease, heart’s ease, heart’s delight, tickle-my-fancy, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, come-and-cuddle-me, three faces in a hood, love-in-idleness… Another says: Love-in-Idleness. Live-in-Idleness. Loving Idol. Love Idol. Cull Me. Cuddle Me. Call-me-to-you. Jack jump-up-and-kiss-me. Meet-me-in-the-Entry. Kiss-her-in-the-Buttery. Three-Faces-under-a-Hood. Kit-run-in-the-Fields. Pink-o’-the-Eye. Kit-run-about. Godfathers and Godmothers. Stepmother. Herb Trinitatis. Herb Constancy. Pink-eyed-John. Bouncing Bet. Flower o’luce. Bird’s Eye. Bullweed. And I think there were close to 29 names (not maybe including those listed above…) in an old gardening book I read…Oh heaven help us!
So having said that…wouldn’t it be correct to assume there could exist similar issues involving OTHER plants?
Spurred on by a gardening friend’s “inquiring mind”…I have decided to address the very confusing issue of our beloved…Ground Cherry.
First let me say (clear myself of any intended wrong doing)…I am NOT an expert in this field. And all I will try to do is make all this simpler to understand…lay man’s language, as they say.
As I pointed out above…one variety can have many different names;
- Chinese lantern – (aka strawberry ground cherry, aka winter cherry, aka Japanese lantern, aka bladder cherry, aka physalis alkekengi, etc…) As usual folks have stuck on “other” names to this one to …SELL it! The best thing to do…know it by its scientific name. Then you can be assured of the right one. B. C. seeds says it is ok to cook and simply eat! (??) First, it is VERY invasive as I discovered many years ago. Yes the fruit, according to Asian folk is edible…HOWEVER (know what you are dealing with) and use with caution! “The dried fruit of P. alkekengi is called the golden flower in the Unani system of medicine, used as a diuretic, antiseptic, liver corrective, and sedative!”….c/o” Wiki”
- Ground Cherry – Here is a name given to many varieties that look similar…such as “Husk Tomato” and “Tomatillos“, etc…bearing a papery beige husk over its fruits, including the one listed above. Here again, familiarize yourself with the “specie” scientific names. AND there is a TON of them…check this link out… (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physalis) Many Physalis species are called “ground cherries“!
- For the most part, I like to keep it simple. I like to place ONLY the SWEET ones in the “Ground Cherry” family! Some called “Aunt Molly“, “Pineapple“, “Cape“, “Golden“, “Yanter” and a few others… These plants are smaller, some bearing “hairy” looks. Fruits are usually eaten raw, when ripe and sweet. Used in a desert form. Essentially these highlighted names are given when a species fruit has been improved in some small way, by an individual or nature. The trouble I have is people sticking on the word “Tomatillo” to words like “Pineapple” confusing the shear heck out of regular gardeners !!
- To keep things simple, I like to call the “un-sweet”, meaty ones…”Tomatillos“. Varieties like “Purple Tomatillo“, “Toma Verde“, “Cisineros“, “De Milpa Purple” and “Amarylla Tomatillo“…to name a few. The plants in this group can get quite “rangy”…like 3 ft to 6 ft tall and correspondingly wider too. Leaves are relatively smooth. Fruits (very large) also tend to come in later, altho the “Purple Tomatillo” and “Toma Verde” came in quite early for me, being smaller plants…less than 3 ft. Have also noticed the papery husk will split open half way through its developing period as opposed to the “Ground Cherry” type varieties, which stays encased. These are primarily used in salsas and traditional Mexican dishes.
- Now…do you want to save some seed??? Dare I say ALL these varieties have the potential to cross?? Within the “ground cherries”…I will say YES! Within the “tomatillos”…I will say YES! With each other…I think more than possible. I’ll leave the “experts” to discuss this further…
- I believe Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has one of the best explanations!
Tomatillos: Physalis ixocarpa
Ground Cherries: Physalis pruinosa Classification and Historical Notes: Husk tomatoes have light-brown, papery husks (calyxes) that enlarge and cover the maturing fruits. The 2 most common cultivated species are the ground cherry and the tomatillo. Both have been cultivated in Central and South America for centuries, before even tomatoes. Ground cherries are so named because the cherry-sized fruits are borne near the ground. The leaves of ground cherries are hairy or fuzzy and the plants grow 1-2 ft. tall with lateral spreading growth. Tomatillos are larger-fruited, typically 1-3 in. diameter, and the plants grow 2-5 ft. tall with smooth leaves. Some varieties may grow 8 ft. or more with a ground-hugging growth habit. The Spanish name tomatillo is derived from the Indian name “tomatl.”Culture: Culture of husk tomatoes is similar to tomatoes. Ground cherries need no support, but tomatillos are best caged or trellised.Pests: In areas where husk worms are a problem, plant early-maturing varieties crops as early as possible in the spring. (Self-sown plants from the previous year’s crop often geta head start on even the earliest plantings.)Harvest: Husk tomatoes usually do not ripen fully until after falling from the plant. Larger tomatillos need to get pulled from the plants. Ground cherries ripen from green to yellow-gold. Most tomatillos ripen from green to yellow-green to pale yellow.Fruit Set: Most cultivars of ground cherry set fruit in all areas of the U.S. Tomatillos are more sensitive to heat and day length: Some cultivars may not set fruit until late summer, or may not set fruit in northern states.Preparation and uses: Ground cherries are eaten fresh, or are used in desserts, sauces, preserves, fruit toppings, pies and salads. Tomatillos are usually cooked to bring out full flavor: Simmer for 5-10 minutes in a pot of water, then use in chili rellenos, salsa verde, guacamole, or other sauces or dips.Seed Savers: Husk tomatoes self-sow easily. Isolate varieties by 300 ft. for pure seed.
- So now you ask…do I have a favorite one? And once again I will tell you…are you asking ME to choose one favorite from all MY children? And I will tell you…can’t do it. They all are favs. of mine…otherwise I wouldn’t/couldn’t carry them here! AND so there “hopefully” you have it….all in a lovely papery beige husk!
Thanks Cherie for asking….Mandy