The Physalis Improvement Project

Physalis fruit with and without husks

Welcome to the Physalis Improvement Project!

The genus Physalis is part of the Solanaceae family (also home to the well-known tomato and potato) and is home to the edible species of peruviana, pruinosa, and ixocarpa. These species are commonly known as goldenberry, groundcherry and tomatillo (as well as many other regional names). Groundcherry and goldenberry plants produce small edible fruits that range from sweet to tart with a variety of unique flavors. Tomatillo plants produce small to medium sized fruits and have a mild acidic flavor. This project aims to further explore the cultivation Physalis species by crowdsourcing information from volunteer citizen scientists throughout the United States. The Physalis Improvement Project is led by the Van Eck research group. It has been made possible through funding from The Triad Foundation and National Science Foundation, which also funds our research collaboration with Zach Lippman at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Project Goals

  • Gather information from stakeholders involved in the production and consumption of Physalis
  • Use information gathered for crop improvement
  • Heighten the visibility of Physalis as a specialty crop 
Happy New Year and End of Season Updates!

Happy New Year and End of Season Updates!

The following is an update post by Dr. Joyce Van Eck.   A new year brings new possibilities! Well, it’s hard to believe another year, our third year, has gone by for our community science activities for the Physalis Improvement Project. It is an understatement to...

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Thank You

Thank You

Dear All, I am writing to let you know that this will be my last blog post for the Physalis Improvement Project as I am moving on to a new position. Over the past three growing seasons I have enjoyed getting to know many of you...

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Quick Links

Citizen Science 2020

Due to high volume of requests we are no longer able to provide seeds for 2020. If you would like acquire seeds from a third party and follow along with the project we have made our growing reccomendations available here: Physalis Information 2020. These recommendations are for the climate of Upstate NY, you may need to make adjustments based on your region’s climate.

Where are our Growers located?

Map of North America pinpointing locations of Physalis Project growersFollow along with our blog and follow us on twitter @PhysalisProject


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In the News

Tomato fans: How you can get free ground cherries and goldenberries for your garden

It's pretty clear that Americans are tomato-crazy - a summer garden without tomato plants is as likely as the Fourth of July without flags. So why isn't there more interest in their Physalis plant cousins, the husked fruit known as goldenberries, ground cherries and tomatillos?

Taming the Groundcherry: With Crispr, a Fussy Fruit Inches Toward the Supermarket

You may have never eaten a groundcherry, but with common gene-editing techniques it and other fruits may be more easily domesticated. The groundcherry might look at first like a purely ornamental plant. A member of the genus Physalis, it bears papery, heart-shaped husks that resemble Chinese lanterns.

Groundcherries, the latest modified fruit scientists want you to try

It can taste like pineapple but also like vanilla. It comes across as "tropical" but also has undertones of tomato. Researchers say its smell can be "intoxicating," but you've probably never heard of it.

Skipping a few thousand years: Rapid domestication of the groundcherry using gene editing

Shopping in your supermarket's produce section is like strolling through a museum of humanity's greatest inventions. Perfect ears of golden sweet corn; tomatoes of different sizes, shapes and colors; and spicy jalapeño peppers are all a testament to human ingenuity.

Meet the Project Team

Photo of scientists: Nathan Reem, Makenna Raspantini, Joyce Van Eck, Kerry Swartwood, Linnell Randall, Esperanza Shenstone

Pictured: Joyce Van Eck, Elise Tomaszewski, Savanah Dale, Kerry Swartwood, and Yumi Green

Project Photos

Physalis Recipes

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