Ask a Master Gardener: Ground cherries are not tomatoes

The plants tend to sprawl and produce lots of small fruits in husks, like tomatillos.

Ground cherries (Pen Waggener / University of Wisconsin)

Q: My husband weed whipped my cherry tomato plant to death. I asked him to replace it. He returned with ground cherries. What do I do with ground cherries?

A: Oops. Well, they are definitely not cherry tomatoes, but ground cherries can be fun to grow.

The plants tend to sprawl, so they need a fair amount of space. They produce lots of small fruits in husks, like Chinese lanterns or tomatillos. But unlike tomatillo fruit, ground cherries never completely fill their husks. Ground cherries are ripe when they drop from the plant.

As for what to do with them, some people like to eat them raw. Ground cherries have a mild (some might say bland) fruity flavor and lots of seeds. You can make preserves from them, too.

Be sure to clean up any fallen fruit, unless you want more ground cherry plants next year.


Q: Should I stop harvesting chives when they start to bloom?

A: You can harvest chives throughout the growing season. If you let them go too long without cutting, the leaves will become tougher. You can eat the flowers themselves, too, though the flower stems are a bit woody and should be discarded.

I like to leave the blossoms on my chives, because pollinators love them, and I think the flowers are pretty. But I do try to cut them off once they go to seed. Chives will reseed prolifically, and I’ve run out of friends to give chive plants to.

Q: Thanks for the column about not using Epsom salt on tomatoes. I was about to add some to mine, and you stopped me! Can you tell me about using coffee grounds? Are they a good fertilizer?

Yes, coffee grounds (and paper coffee filters) make a good addition to the compost pile. You can also add coffee grounds directly to garden soil. They add nutrients and help build a good soil structure. Don’t let them form a thick layer on top of the soil; sprinkle them on lightly or work them in. Better yet, mix them into your compost pile with an equal amount of “brown” material such as leaves, straw, or pine needles.

Written by U of M Extension Master Gardeners in St. Louis County. Send questions to


What To Read Next
Get Local