Ground Cherry Fruit (Boston, MA)

ground cherry fruit and husks

Looking for groundcherry fruit in the Boston, Massachusetts area? We have a limited quantity available on a seasonal basis.

Please email with the subject line “Ground Cherry Fruit” to join our waiting list and get notifications when ground cherries are in-season and available for sale.

Ground Cherry Fruit (Boston, MA)

Ground cherry is not a type of cherry – rather, it is a nightshade fruit that is very nutritious. Ground cherries are high in Vitamins A, C, and B3/Niacin.

Ground cherries are related to tomatoes, tomatillos, and ornamental Chinese lanterns. Ground cherry (Physalis pruniosa) is also known as husk tomato or cape gooseberry.

The plant is perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 to 9, and annual elsewhere. It is native to Mexico and the Southern U.S.

A ground cherry plant produces small white flowers in spring, followed by dense clusters of lantern-shaped green husks (harvest is in the fall).

ground cherry green on plant
Ground cherries grow in green lantern-shaped husks that turn tan or beige when the fruits are ripe.

Each husk contains a ground cherry fruit that is 1 to 2 inches wide. The fruit also contains tiny seeds.

When Is A Ground Cherry Ripe?

A ground cherry is ripe when the color of the fruit is an orange-yellow hue (you will have to open the lantern-shaped husk to know for sure). The fruit is green when unripe.

The lantern-shaped husk will also change color from green to beige or light tan as the fruit ripens.

Ground cherry fruit will fall to the ground when ripe. To make sure, you can peel open the lantern-shaped husks to see what the fruit itself looks like.

ground cherry fruit with husks
Ground cherries turn yellowish-orange when ripe, but you have to open the husks to find out for sure.

Sometimes, a ground cherry fruit falls to the ground before it is ripe – usually, it will never ripen.

Can Humans Eat Ground Cherries?

Humans can eat ground cherries – as long as they are ripe. Unripe (green) ground cherries contain the toxin solanine, which can make you sick in large enough amounts.

The other parts of a ground cherry plant (husk of the fruit, stems, leaves, etc.) also contain the toxin solanine, so never eat any part of the plant except ripe (orange) fruit.

Can You Eat Ground Cherry Seeds?

You can eat ground cherry seeds, as long as the fruit is ripe (orange). The tiny seeds inside a ripe ground cherry are edible, but avoid eating any part of an unripe (green) ground cherry.

What Does A Ground Cherry Taste Like?

A ground cherry tastes like a tomato, but with a twist. The flavor of ground cherry is sweet and tart, perhaps like a combination of pineapple and vanilla.

ground cherry fruit and husks
A ground cherry tastes like its cousin the tomato, but with a sweet and zesty flavor (like pineapple and vanilla, or even a nutty taste).

Some say ground cherries taste like a tomato with sweet, nutty, and zesty flavors. It also depends a bit on the variety of ground cherry – some are sweeter than others.

Should Ground Cherries Be Refrigerated?

You can store ground cherries for 1 to 2 weeks on the countertop. You can also refrigerate ripe ground cherries to store them for weeks or months at a time (2 to 3 weeks for de-husked fruit, or 3 months for fruit still inside the husk).

You can also freeze de-husked ground cherry fruit and store it for up to 6 months.

Pro Tip: Lay the ground cherries on a tray, freeze them, and then put them in a bag. This avoids them sticking together in a big frozen clump.

Why Are Ground Cherries Hard To Find?

Ground cherries are hard to find (and often not sold in supermarkets) for two main reasons.

First, the fruit falls to the ground after it turns ripe. This makes it more work to harvest ground cherries (and easier to step on them!)

Another problem is that some unripe fruit will fall to the ground as well. After harvesting all of the “lanterns”, the only way to tell what is ripe or not is to de-husk the fruit – which takes even more work.

ground cherry on plant green husks
Sometimes, unripe ground cherries will fall off the plant, meaning more work to sort out ripe from unripe fruit.

The cost of harvesting, de-husking, and refrigeration would make ground cherries very expensive in stores (I have seen them listed online for a price of $20 per pound).

Where To Buy Ground Cherry Fruit In Massachusetts?

If you live in or near Massachusetts, please email me at with the subject line “Ground Cherry Fruit” and I will add you to the waiting list. I have a small amount of fruit available for sale in season (if all goes well!)

To buy ground cherry fruit elsewhere, check your local farmers’ market. Most grocery stores don’t carry it, and even specialty stores would only have it at certain times of year (autumn, when the fruit is in season).

ground cherry in tan husk
Ground cherries are hard to find at supermarkets – try a local venue, such as a farmer’s market.

Where Do Ground Cherries Grow?

Ground cherries grow in South, Central, and North America (annual or perennial, depending on what the winters are like in a given region).

Fruit Trees In Massachusetts

If you are looking for some good fruit trees to grow in Massachusetts, consider the ones listed here.