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Husk cherries, also commonly referred to as ground cherries or husk tomatoes, are small fruits wrapped in a crinkly, paper-like husk. Tasting like a cherry tomato injected with tropical juice, Husk Cherries have become a permaculture darling based on their ability to thrive and re-seed themselves.
Husk Cherries are frost-sensitive annuals that requires full sun and moderately rich, well-drained soil. Prior to planting, loosen soil well and add a couple inches of compost.
Husk Cherries can be direct seeded or transplanted. Start indoors 4-6 weeks before last frost, transplanting after all danger of frost and when soil has warmed up, leaving 3' between rows in full sun and rich soil.
Husk Cherries will be ready to harvest in approximately 75 days. Harvest when the papery husk is full and starts to split. Mature fruits often fall to the ground when ripe.
Although related to tomatillos, they will not cross with each other. Perfect, self-fertile flowers are individual or in clusters of 2-20 flowers, depending on the variety. Being self-fertile, only one plant is needed for seed production, but there is a possibility of cross-pollination, so obey isolation distances or bag flowers for protection. Allow fruits to ripen beyond eating stage on the vine before harvesting for seed production. Cut the husk cherry in half and squeeze the jelly and seed goo into a jar. Add an equal amount of water to the goo. Loosely cover the container and place in a warm location for about 3 days. Stir or swirl once a day. A layer of fungus will begin to appear on the top of the mixture after a couple of days. This fungus not only eats the gelatinous coat that surrounds each seed and prevents germination, it also produces antibiotics that help to control seed-borne diseases like bacterial spot, canker, and speck. After 3 days are up, put a few more inches of water in your jar with your fermented goo, and allow the contents to settle. Once settled you can slowly pour off the water along with the tomato pulp and immature seeds, which will float. Viable seeds are heavy and will sink to the bottom. At this point you can pour all of your seeds and water into a colander to finish cleaning. Tap seeds out onto a fine mesh screen, paper towels, or a few layers of newspaper and allow to dry for a few days before storing.