|Monday Melange: Husk Tomato|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Monday, 02 April 2012|
Like many plants, the husk tomato (Physalis pubescens), an edible plant native to the US, goes by more than one common name. To complicate matters, there’s also a lot of confusion regarding species epithet. For example, the strawberry-tomato, P. grisea, is synonymous with both the husk tomato and another species, also called the strawberry-tomato (P. pruinosa). Confused yet?
What inspired me to tackle this topic was an article on ground cherries in the May 2008 issue of Organic Gardening. I chose this particular ground cherry, the husk tomato, because it grows throughout most of the US, its range extending from Washington state south to California and across to the eastern US, skipping Nevada, the great plains states, and New Hampshire. The husk tomato, like all ground cherries is a member of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae)--the same family as many of our favorite vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes. Tomatillos (P. ixocarpa), a staple of Mexican cooking are also a member of this family.
The best cultivars to plant are ‘Aunt Molly’s’ (an heirloom cultivar), 'Goldie', and ‘Cossack Pineapple’. Because it’s a member of the nightshade family, it’s important to remember that many parts of the plant are poisonous, so only buy seeds from a reputable seed company. Husk tomato grows 12 to 18 inches and like most vegetables prefers full sun (at least 6 hours a day). The whitish flowers on begin blooming in late spring and continue throughout the summer. The edible fruits begin developing in summer and are ready for harvest when they turn a golden apricot color. According to the article in Organic Gardening, they typically fall off the plant before they are ripe, so simply gather them off the ground when they’re ripe.
Husk tomato (listed as P. pruinosa) is listed as possibly extirpated in Maine and endangered in New York (listed as P. pubescens var. integrifolia).