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Old February 6, 2012   #8
SEAMSFASTER
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Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: American Fork, Utah
Posts: 162
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I grew two types last year:

Physalis peruviana - Inca berry (aka Golden berry, cape gooseberry). Sturdy, shrub-like plants can get 4-5' tall and generally don't need staking. Husk-covered fruits are a beautiful, bright orange color and average 3.1 grams. The flavor is unique and intense - an excellent combination of tart and sweet. Some people absolutely love the flavor, others don't care for it much ("tastes like medicine", said one customer). For my taste buds and personality, it's one of the best fruits I've ever eaten. It's also touted as one of the best of the extra healthy "Super Fruits".

Unfortunately, the fruits are very slow to ripen. I did not get my first ripe ones until late September and the fruits were just starting to come on well when frost hit a month later. This is even after an extra early start (Feb. 15th). The plants just won't hardly grow at all in cool weather. This is one plant that would benefit greatly from a high tunnel - both Spring and Fall - or from a greenhouse.



Physalis pruinosa - Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry. Superlatives come to mind. For the tomato taste test I held in September, I threw in some of these, since so many customers had given positive feedback. This one scored perfect 10's for flavor across the board - something none of the 83 tomato varieties did. Very sweet, with a little tartness and not a hint of unpleasant flavors. I've seen kids who were gobbling up some excellent cherry tomatoes who, after trying Aunt Molly's, would reject all cherry tomatoes. Fruits are husk-covered, beige to light orange-colored, and (unfortunately) very small, averaging just 1.4 grams.

I got an extra early (Feb. 15th) start on these also, but in this case the early start really paid off! The first ripe fruit fell off from a 4" tall plant on June 8th (beating out virtually everything else in the garden) and production continued at a gradually increasing rate until frost. At that point, the tallest plants were about 3' tall.



I only grew 4 plants in 2011. Based on demand and customers' rave reviews, I will be planting at least 100 this year. Plus, I've decided to plant them in straight, narrow rows over cheap landscape fabric. Once the plants start putting on fruit, I'll staple down the fabric in the center of the rows and raise the edges about 8" off the ground, thus leaving a v-shaped catchment system for easy and essentially bug-free harvest. For, as with Inca Berries, these are really not worth eating until after they fall - without any coaxing - off the vine.

Interestingly, germination rates are slow, sporadic and unpredictable for both varieties. This year I planted my first wave on Jan. 6th. My first Aunt Molly's were up in 9 days, 10 for Inca (8 and 7 last year, respectively). I'm still getting emergence from both varieties. Last year I had emergence continuing even 2 months after sowing.
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