Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry (Physalis pruinosa) is a native of central and eastern North America. They are easy to grow with an exceptional output of fruit from each plant. Ground Cherries are sweet and are great for jams, salads, pies, and to eat fresh. The Ground Cherry is ripe when the external papery husk turns brown. They will fall to the ground at this point and are ready for harvest. The ground cherry is a fairly quick producer at about 70 days and will store in the husk for 3 to 4 weeks. The husk acts as a shield from pest and the elements. I like to remove them from the husks and chill them in the fridge to eat like grapes as a snack. Do not eat the green cherries. Instead give them time to ripen. While tasting a little bitter the green Ground Cherries are known to contain solanine and related alkaloids. I have never heard of anyone actually getting sick from them and I have even eaten a few green ones myself. I have not noticed any problems just beware and let them ripen.
They will blend quickly. Pour the juice into a large bowl. Refill your blender with the same amount of water and pour into the bowl doubling the mixture. Agitate the mixture with a spoon then allow the good seeds to sink to the bottom for a moment. Any underdeveloped or broken seeds will float.
Carefully pour off most of the juice. Take care not to lose your seeds. I pour into another bowl encase we have any mishaps I can start over. Also you can save this juice if you like. It will be a little bland with the extra water but we don’t waist anything.
Pour the remaining clean seeds into a strainer. Be sure the holes on your strainer are not so big as to allow the seeds to slip through. If you are unsure place a bowl underneath when straining. Gently wipe the bottom of the strainer with a towel to remove as much water as possible. Then tap out seeds onto a ceramic or glass plate to dry. Spread them out evenly and take care as they tend to stick to your fingers and don’t sneeze! Place them in a dry place away from disturbances to dry.
Seeds will keep for about three years when stored correctly. Store all your seeds in a cool, dark, and dry place. Do not store seeds in a garage or barn the heat and humidity will shorten the life of the seeds. I keep my seeds double bagged in zip-lock bags. Then I place them in coffee cans and keep them in a cool air conditioned closet. Seeds also store well in ammo cans. I recommend saving enough seeds to plant for at least three seasons. This will give you enough for trade as well as protect you if you have a couple bad years.
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