We have many wonderful things growing at the Love and Carrots farm. Most, like tomatoes and sage, you’d recognize. But there are a few things you probably wouldn’t know so well. Take the husk cherry. On first inspection its characteristic husks might make you think you’re dealing with tomatillos just starting to form. The confusion stems from the fact that they’re closely related and in the same genus: Physalis. One look down and you’ll know you’re dealing with something else.
Also known as ground cherries, husk cherries fall to the ground right before ripening. They can be gathered and stored with the husks on for up to three months if placed in a mesh bag and kept in a cool place. Of course if you’ve ever tried husk cherries before you definitely won’t be able to wait that long.
Taking the husk off for the first time you’d think you were holding a cherry tomato. That’s not that surprising since husk cherries are nightshades, making them distant relatives to tomatoes. But once you popped one into your mouth a completely different flavor will come to mind.
Yes, its unexpected, but this little gem is like a burst of tropical goodness. Its sweet flavor makes it perfect for pies, jams, or just an afternoon snack. Quite often husk cherries are confused with Cape gooseberries. Really they do look almost exactly the same. Though another member of the genus Physalis, Cape gooseberries are a different species. Still, they’re similar enough where they can be used interchangeably in recipes.
One of the great things about husk cherries is that they’re perfect for home gardens. They continue to produce fruit throughout the season, meaning you’ll continuously have handfuls of them to harvest. Or in the case of husk cherries, gather from the ground. Really the fact that they fall to the ground before ripening makes it easy for any level of gardener to know when they’re ready.
Another reason husk cherries are easy for any level of gardener is that they grow like weeds. This may be why pests and diseases aren’t usually a problem for them. However, they are still susceptible to the same pests and disease as tomatoes and tomatillos. To keep them healthy regular watering and floating row covers should give them an extra level of protection. Another way to give them an edge is to grow them in raised beds to provide the drainage they need.
All these reasons make husk cherries a great plant to grow with Love and Carrots. Not only will harvesting be a breeze, we have all the tools to make sure your crop is a success!
Contributed by Ian Whittington