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Poha (photo courtesy of Joshua McCullough/PhytoPhoto)
Poha (photo courtesy of Joshua McCullough/PhytoPhoto)

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Zones H1, H2
Full Sun
Regular Water

Poha, Ground Cherry

Edible fruit, Perennials

From Brazil, but naturalized at higher elevations throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Known botanically as Physalis peruviana and closely related to tomatillo (P. ixocarpa) and Chinese lantern plant (P. alkekengi). Bushy plant with heart-shaped, irregularly toothed, somewhat velvety green leaves to 2 1/2–6 in. long. As a perennial, it can reach 6 ft. tall and 4 ft. wide (needs support); as an annual, it is more likely to grow 1 1/2–3 ft. tall and wide. Plant produces small, bell-shaped spring flowers that are whitish yellow with brown spots in the throat. After blossoms fade, the enlarged calyx forms a loose, papery, straw-colored husk around the fruit. The seedy, inch-wide yellow fruit ripens from late summer into autumn; it is smaller and sweeter than tomatillo and can be eaten fresh or used in pies and preserves.

Grow in well-drained soil in a frost-free, wind-protected site. Plant is self-fruitful, but you can help ensure pollination by gently shaking flower stems or spraying them lightly with water. No fertilizer is needed. Cut back on watering when fruit is maturing. Harvest fruit when it drops to the ground; remove papery husks before using. Plant often self-sows.

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