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Tomatillo Vs. Ground Cherry: What’s The Difference?

Tomatillos are an interesting group of fruits.

They resemble green tomatoes in appearance but can be differentiated from green tomatoes by the papery husk which covers their fruit.

They are also called husk tomatoes because of the presence of these papery husks covering their fruits.

Tomatillos belong to the nightshade family, where you can also find popular fruits like tomatoes, peppers or root vegetables like potatoes.

Ground cherries are part of the nightshade family too.

Like tomatillos, ground cherries are also covered with a papery husk.

Tomatillos are closely related to ground cherries, belonging to the same genus physalis, which are made of other fruits that have papery husks and look alike in appearance.

However, tomatillos are much larger in size compared to ground cherries, and they could also be differentiated from each other by the colors of their fruits.

In this post, we are going to highlight more of the differences between the tomatillo and ground cherries.

Tomatillos description

Tomatillos are fruits that belong to either the Physalis philadelphica or ixocarpa species.

The name tomatillo is Spanish for ‘little tomato.’

These fruits are native to Mexico, and because they have a green color they can be confused for green tomatoes. They are often called Mexican green tomatoes. 

Unlike the real green tomatoes, tomatillos are softer and come with papery husks. They are also green when ripe.

The husks covering tomatillos develop from the calyxes of the flowers.

The tomatillo plant can reach heights of up to 1.5m and may be planted just like tomatoes.

Their leaves are ovate and are smooth to slightly hairy.

As the tomatillos become more mature, their color changes to yellow. There are also specific varieties of tomatillos that have a purple color instead.

They are so versatile and could be used in different way in different recipes.

Tomatillos can be eaten raw or cooked.

They are used to make purees. They are also used to make sauces and other interesting dishes.

Tomatillos have an acidic taste when they are eaten.

The acidity of tomatillos is greater compared to the acidity of tomatoes.

There are several varieties of tomatillo. The pineapple tomatillo is a type of tomatillo known for its flavor that tastes like a pineapple; other varieties of tomatillos include Gigante and Amarylla.

Tomatillos are harvested all year round. The fruit drops on the floor when it has ripe wrapped in a papery husk that is first removed.

The fruit is usually coated with a sticky residue which is washed off with warm water.

Tomatillos are also rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, and fibers. .

Ground cherry description

The term ground cherries is commonly used to refer to cape gooseberries(Golden cherry).

They also belong to the family of nightshades and the genus physalis just like the tomatillos.

Cape gooseberry (Physalis pruinosa) are called ground cherries because they fall from their plants and are picked up from the ground when they become ripe, and also their small fruits which are about the size of a cherry.

However, the term ground cherries are also used to describe several other species of fruits belonging to the physalis genus including cape goose berries(Peruvian ground cherry). Even tomatillos are often called Mexican ground cherries

Cape gooseberries can be eaten raw or used in salads.

There are several varieties of ground cherry such as the pineapple ground cherry, Aunt Mollie and Goldie.

Like tomatillos, ground cherries also have their fruits enclosed in a papery husk, when they become ripe their husks dry off and the fruit falls to the ground.

The base of the plants may be lined with a cloth so that when the fruit drops, it falls on the cloth for better collection.

These fruits also have their own peculiar characteristics which distinguishes them from tomatillos.

Cape gooseberries can be yellow to orange in colour and they are also smaller in size compared to tomatillos.

The cape gooseberries are less acidic than ground cherries, they also have a grape to mild tomato flavor.

The ground cherry plant is shorter than the tomatillos and do not necessarily require support

Their leaves are velvety and heart shaped.

Cape gooseberries are also a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin B3, vitamin C, and of minerals such as iron, magnesium and phosphorous.

These fruits also contain some amount of fiber.

Despite their name cape gooseberries are not related to gooseberries.

Difference between tomatillos and ground cherries

Size: Tomatillos are much larger in size compared to ground cherries, a tomatillo may reach about 5cm in size while a ground cherry could be about 2cm.

Fruit color: Tomatillos are green to yellow when ripe. However, there are certain varieties that are purple in colour. Ground cherries have a yellow or an orange color.

Uses: Tomatillos are usually used in making sauces while ground cherries are often eaten raw or used in making salad.

Leaves: The leaves of the tomatillos plant are ovate in shape, they may be hairless or have small amount of hair, while those of ground cherries are heart shaped and they are hairy.

Plants: The plants of tomatillos are taller than those of the ground cherries.

Taste: Ground cherries have a sweeter taste and also less acidity than tomatillos. Varieties of tomatillos such as the pineapple tomatillos are cooked to lessen its acidity and better appreciate their flavor.

In summary

The tomatillos and ground cherries are both closely related, belonging to the same family and having a similar appearance with papery tusks.

They are however of different sizes, with the tomatillos being twice as big as ground cherries.

Ground cherries and tomatillos also have different colors and are often used differently in food preparation.

The tomatillos have a greater acidity than tomatoes.

Both ground cherries and tomatillos are good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibers.