Tall, erect, sticky-haired stems carry sizeable 'paper lanterns' which contain the largest and juiciest fruits of all the golden berries. This is the physalis variety sold at inflated prices in supermarkets and used to adorn expensive desserts in restaurants.
Slow to germinate. Seeds are surface-sown or covered only slightly. Do not allow the soil to dry out. Containers are held in warm conditions until sprouts appear, which may take anywhere from 3-10 days. Move sprouting plantings immediately to bright light conditions, such as a south-facing window. Inadequate light is a frequent cause of failure of young seedlings. At about the time of last frost, set out seedlings into pots.
This more or less sums up the general situation with ground cherries — attractive to customers but not very easy to harvest. This attractive fruit (Physalis pruinosa), encased in a paper-like husk, is usually grown by farmers in relatively small quantities and can be found at farmers markets or as part of a CSA share. Occasionally the fruit, mostly from South America, will be available in larger supermarkets.
The fruit commonly referred to as ground cherry, cape gooseberry or goldenberry (among many other names) actually consists of two different species — Physalis pruinosa and Physalis peruviana. The confusion begins in seed catalogs, and in the literature in general, when referring to these two varieties and assigning them common names. In fact, in the literature Dr. Durner distributes to growers, he lists over 40 common names for the two species.
An advantage of P. peruviana is that the plants are larger and more upright and that the fruit does not abscise when ripe, giving more control and easier conditions (not stooping on the ground) for harvesting. On the other hand, because they don’t abscise when ripe, they must be cut off the plant, which makes harvest more time consuming.