Ground cherries never ripen?

sunnibel7 Md 7(7)December 12, 2013

I'm reviewing the garden this year (even better than last year despite some major players having weather-related failure!) and I'm coming up with some questions. Maybe you can help me figure things out and I can refine my plans for next year.

So my first question is about ground cherries. I have been growing them for 3-4 years and it always seems to be the same. They grow, they look great, they fruit, the fruit drops, everything looks papery and brown on the outside but 80-90% of the fruit are still green (and I can't tell until I've opened the husk). Is this normal? So then I put them in a bag or basket to wait for them to ripen. But they never do. They may turn yellowish, but never sweeten, and most of them just stay greenish and dessicate slowly. I really enjoy the ripe ones, but they seem to be so few. So, any ideas?

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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I grow tomatillos. They don't ripen like tomato. When the husk is filled and torn a bit and they become slightly yellow, they are done. The taste is often more sour than sweet. That is why they make good salsa. I have never grown ground cherries.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 7:38PM
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I have a few plants of this Physalis peruviana but the images on the net show amazing red husk which are so much prettier than mine. I wonder if it is a matter of variety. The berries were mostly green even when the husk turned brown just like op said. I would like to know the secret of growing pretty red ground cherries too.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 10:15PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

The color of the husks has nothing to do with the color of the fruit inside. I have grown tomatillo that had purple husk. The fruits never gets beyond pale green

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 1:42AM
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By ground cherries, I assume you're talking about the little yellow fruit, and not tomatillos. If so, I grew several plants of Aunt Molly's ground cherry this year, and much of the late production never fully ripened. Even the fruit that had mature husks and fell off the plant was still greenish. Definitely a problem. I did get to eat many of them, but I didn't get a harvest sufficient to make jam or pies.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 2:56PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Jon, yes. Those are what I am talking about and the problem is as you describe. Only it isn't just the late harvest, but from the beginning on for me. Good to know that someone else has had a similar experience.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 8:02PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

There wasn't a lot of action on this question last fall, and it was never answered. So a recent thread about finding seed reminded me- does anyone have any ideas what might be causing the ground cherries I have to not ripen, even though they do all the other things you'd associate with ripening GCs?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 10:11AM
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starsplitter(4/5 New Eng)

I'd like to update this thread. I have a similar question.
Also, some of my husked fruit (or husks) are on the ground, but EMPTY ;( I suppose a chipmunk is helping himself.

I have two plants and they are sprawling and have _some_ fruit, still green and is husks. Also very small. I will assume that they are not yet ripe (Aug 19th) and will need more time.

My garden doesn't get full sunlight, unfortunately, and I also have chipmunks and vole-like critters. That is likely why my plants are so sprawled and with meager fruit production.

Do your plants get full sun? I just saw a YouTube video where a UK gardener was opining that the season likely wasn't long enough where he was and that he was attempting his next batch with plants overwintered in a greenhouse.

I've grown tomatillos before and those worked out. I may give up on the ground cherries if I can't find a better location and keep the small rodents from harvesting them. Best of luck to you.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 3:20PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I have volunteer ground cherries. I do not know what particular strain they are, but they are capable of producing some fine yellow fruits.

Ground cherry growing is both an art and a hit and miss too. When I tried to raise them solidly in a row, something made a small hole in them, so I just let selected and scattered plants grow . These plants need to be healthy to produce many fruits. If you wait for the last fruits to mature, some nice earlier ones are spoiled.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 4:38PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

My plants are full sun. I let a number of volunteers grow this year too. Most died from lack of water, but a few thrived and one plant is dropping large, ripe fruit. I'm thinking either ground cherries need more calcium (which they got this year) than is found in my soil or else the genes are pretty random and I've just been having bad luck. Whatever it is I'll be saving seed from the large fruited one, just in case.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 9:31PM
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I lose many ground cherries to squirrels, mice and voles.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 11:43PM
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annew21 (zone 7b NC)(7b NC)

Are these the only plants you've had problems with?


    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 8:50AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

I'm not sure if you're asking me or a different poster. But yes, the GCs are the only fruit that never ripen. Tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, okra, melons, squash, all the other summer staples do fine. When I say never ripen, I mean they shrivel upand dry out inside their husk after weeks/months of waiting yet are still green and bitter. The husks always looked brown. But as I said, this year I have at least one plant that produces the way others describe. Just another garden mystery.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 10:02AM
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annew21 (zone 7b NC)(7b NC)

Yes, I was asking you. Sorry. :)

You said the husks always looked brown. They should start out green and then eventually turn brown once they are ripe. I'm sure that is absolutely no help to you, and you probably know that since one plant is producing this year. I guess you're right that it's a garden mystery.


    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 1:29PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Thanks Anne. :) I meant once the fruit fall off the plant the husks always look brown, before they fall off they go from green to yellow.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 2:46PM
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I have the same issue with my ground cherries; don't know what causes it, but I didn't want you to feel alone. I get a few that ripen, but most fall when they're still green and don't get any more yellow. I've been following this thread and hoping for answers too.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 4:02PM
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Are you sure the ripe ones aren't being stolen by rodents? They would leave behind the unripe ones, which would explain your situation.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 6:43PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Slimy- about as sure as I can be without a camera monitoring it! But really it is that they do not ripen when brought inside after collecting fallen fruit.

I thought the premise was that the fruit only fall off the plant when ripe or very near ripe- the husk is yellow to brown and papery dry. So when you scoop them off the ground you bring them in and let them sit a couple of days or so then open your husks to hopefully find ripe fruit. What I have been finding is distinctly greenish fruit in a brown husk and those fruit stay green for so long (weeks, months) I eventually toss them. There are usually a few that are actually ripe.

Lily, thanks for the commiseration! If I ever figure it out, I'll pass along the info!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 10:09AM
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Just came home from our 4-H daycare garden. The Ground Cherries (Aunt Molly) are ripe this year and a big hit with the kids. I have heard that they are poisonous until they fall off the plant. I warned the kids that they need to carefully pull up the leaves to find the ripe ones on the ground. This is an unusually warm sunny summer here in PNW so there should be a lot of GC until fall. I tasted some and very sweet - almost like a cherry. The fruit was almost the size and color of sungold tomato.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 3:23PM
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