November 27, 2017

Frost Hardy Edible Groundcherries (Physalis spp.)

To genus Physalis belongs very numerous, mostly American species. The most known one is Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana) – it is tender perennial with edible fruits. Other well known species – Chinese Latern (Ph. alkekengi) creates very ornamental but inedible fruit, but it is fully frost hardy. Almost nobody knows that there exists intermediate species – frost hardy and with edible delicious fruits. They are very difficult to buying. I dreamed about them by long time and after years of lokking for I have gotten the seeds of two such species: Ph. heterophylla and Ph. longifolia var. subglabrata. Both these species are fully resistant to frost in my zone 6b. They starts to abundant fruiting in 2-3 year of life. They germintes well if seeds were soaked in GA3 solution (2000ppm by 24 hours) if sown surface. The seeds can be also short or long cold stratified (after my experience I can say that the seeds of Ph. longifolia var. subglabrata can be kept in stratification by 1-1,5 year or even longer if possible and germinated only when they are taken to warm temperature). The seeds the best sow inside in pots in spring and replant outside in May/June.

Bellow there are descriptions of the species which I grew:

Physalis longifolia var. subglabrata (smooth groundcherry, wild tomatillo) it is perennial (frost hardy to zone 5) to about 150 cm (5 ft) tall, with smooth leaves and delicuious edible fruits. Native to eastern Canada, much of the continental United States and northern Mexico. It survives in half-shade but the fruits better ripe in full sun. 
The seedlings
It blooms in first year but does not creates ripe fruits
Plants in second year of life

 Flowers of this species are large

Ripe fruits (very delicious)

Physalis heterophylla (Clammy Groundcherry, Rowell's groundcherry) it is frost hardy (to at least zone 6) perennial to 50 cm (=2 ft) tall with hairy leaves and delicious fruits. Native to North the eastern United States and Canada. It likes half-shade or full sun and is much drough resistant. 

The leaves of this species are very hairy 
Plant in early summer

Flowers are very lovely

 The ripe fruits in hairy calyxes

Bellow there are a few photos of wild Chinese Latern (Physalis alkekengi) from lower slopes of E'meishan Sichuan, altitude 1700m (5666 ft). I was very suprised when I tasted its fruits and they has been edible, tasty and not bitter (as forms of this species cultivated commonly in Europe as ornamental wich have bitter fruits).
It haves star-like white flowers

 The fruits of my wild plant are orange-red and delicious (not bitter! - as commonly cultivated forms) - they are already dried on the photo
There are numerous other hardy gourdcherries species yet. If you have available the seeds of any of them please write to me.


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