Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Oh look, yummy!" or "I hope I don't die"

While walking around the property with Rhiannon yesterday, I happened upon a curious, yet somewhat familiar looking plant growing in the ditch alongside our road:

Looks like ground cherries (or husk cherries), what a treat!  I didn't know they grew wild.  But the seeds easily could have made it from my compost heap just up the hill to this final resting and growing place.  I tried to grow ground cherries from seed last year, but nothing came up so I just tossed all the soil and seeds into the compost pile.

Technically, I've never seen a live ground cherry plant.  But I've seen pictures.  And how many plants have little dried paper lantern looking things covering round tomato-looking fruits?

So I popped several in my mouth.  None of them were really yellow yet, but they still tasted good.  Kind of like tomatillos actually, but in a smaller package.  The two are probably related, I should look that up. 

And having swallowed a handful of the fruits, I had one of those hot-flash moments.  Shit.  Are there poisonous look alikes?  I made my way back towards the house, all the while continually reminding myself the entire walk that I was sure that those were ground cherries. (Right?  Right.  I'm sure.  Well, not 100%, but close.  It tasted like it should have; it it were poisonous, it would have tasted bad.  Right?  Shit. Where's the Ipecac syrup?).

Well it seems that they were, in fact, ground cherries.  One website said that the leaves and unripe fruits are poisonous, while other posts in vegetable forums said that the fruits are fine.  It is part of the Nightshade family, so I can understand the extra caution given to anything about them.  I also saw several forum posters griping that they couldn't start them from seed, but once you got them going, they volunteer like crazy. 

I'm going to keep an eye on this plant and harvest some more for eating as they ripen, but I think I'll keep several to dry up and use them for seeds next year. 

Wait....was there a lesson in all of this?  If so, I've forgotton.

Oh look, something growing alongside the road!


  1. Ground cherries are wild in the mountains of NC. We use to go out and gather them with my grandma and then later years would take my girls out to pick them. Haven't seen any here in eastern NC but will have to research and see if they grow here.

    1. I saw some as a kid growing wild in central NC. At the time I didn't know what they were but do now.

  2. Carolyn Renee! I am channeling your mother here - what were you thinking, young lady? Research FIRST, eat second. I love ground cherries, but have never tried growing them. Sounds like the best way to grow them is to throw the seeds out.

  3. Glad you are ok. Yikes. Get a field

  4. Those look like something that grows here. We call them Chinese lanterns. I didn't know they could be eaten - or maybe they're not the same thing.
    Do those papery skins get bright orange in fall? I'll have to research that.

  5. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. But honestly, I was 99.9% certain that is what they were. I did, however, find out exactly what type they were; the Clammy Ground Cherry (what a name). They are also called Chinese Lanterns. I have several field guides and actually like reading them like a book, especially the ones for Medicinial and Edible wild plants. I have both Peterson and the Audubon Society guides, as well as some older local ones. Even between them there are always some variations, which drives me nuts. I really wish there were some sort of naturalist class around here where a local could come point out the stuff though, especailly the mushrooms. The only mushroom I'd know how to ID would be the Morel and Puffball. Mushrooms are something that I would NEVER second guess.

  6. That which doesn't kill us, makes us stronger? Geesh, girl, be careful! Is your daughter old enough to dial 911? Just kidding, I know you'd never take a chance unless you were 99.9% sure. Right? RIGHT??

  7. I've never tried ground cherries, though I actually do have some seeds. I've never found any growing wild. Our local wild nightshade is, nightshade. No lantern like husks on that though. Just lots of thorns.

  8. They do look like tomatillos only smaller. You better be careful! The only "wild" nightshade we have around here is the Silver Leaf Nightshade and it has pretty purple flowers followed by the papery-husked fruits, not edible though.

  9. Here is another Mom comment: Never ever put anything into your mouth that you aren't l00% sure is edible! I am sure that is what you are telling your daughter....

    I have those same Chinese Lanterns; never ever ate one!