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Edible Wild Fruit- Clammy Groundcherry

clammy groundcherry fruit clammy groundcherry fruit with husk (photo by jhy)
The Clammy Groundcherry, Physalis heterophylla, produces a small golden fruit that is sweet with tart overtones. The plant is in the Solanaceae family, which means that it is a tomato relative. There are also a number of poisonous plants in this genus, but this one is easy to identify. You can click any picture to see it enlarged, and find other views, too.

Start looking for this low plant in June or July. It likes to grow in poor soil, or dry woods. In the United States, it has been found in all the contiguous states except California and Nevada.

clammy groundcherry plant clammy groundcherry plant (photo by jhy)
I find it in an old field mixed with the grasses. It can grow as high as three feet, but I rarely see it more than a foot in height.

The leaves and stems are very hairy, and the stems are slightly sticky. The bases of the leaves are rounded, not toothed. The plant always seems to be drooping, even when it's very happy.

clammy groundcherry flower clammy groundcherry flower (photo by jhy)
The flowers are a creamy yellow and always hang downwards. If you lift a bloom and look inside, you will see a lovely brown star-like pattern.

clammy groundcherry seed pod clammy groundcherry seed pod (photo by jhy)
By mid to late July the fruit capsules (seed pods) begin to form. These look like little Chinese lanterns. They will be green at first. If the capsule is still green, the fruit is probably not ripe. If you open the capsule, the fruit will probably be green, or a greenish-gold. They won't hurt you if you eat them at this stage, but they won't be as sweet.

If you wait until September, when the pods are dry and papery, the fruits will be pure golden. There is one fruit in each capsule, which can easily be pulled out. The fruit is sticky.

What can you do with these? I never seem to find enough to do anything except to eat them as a treat. If I would collect a few to carry back to the house, they would be good on a salad.

However, I once received a gift of jelly made with them, which was good on meat. Supposedly they have a lot of natural pectin. I have also read that they can be dried to create "raisins." I haven't tried that.


BrSpiritus said...

Ground Cherries are also called Gooseberries, am I correct in this? I've never seen this particular variety growing in the Jacksonville area, guess we are too close to the salt water of the ocean.

The Vintage Recipe Blog

Unknown said...

Brspiritus, no these are not the same as goose berries. Some people call them cape gooseberry but they are very different from real gooseberries. these make excellent reasons when you dry them. They do contain a lot of seeds so they have a fig like consistency but definitely worth trying.

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