September 15th, 2009
The poha fruit is commonly associated with Hawaii. It grows vigorously in most parts of the state, almost as a weed. You can buy poha jam at the farmer’s market, and kids snack on it wherever it found. We have poha on our land, growing vigorously. On wikipedia i found that it is a member of the Physalis genus, which contains a large number of other varieties beside poha (which is P. peruviana). On the Local Harvest: Fruit site, i found two varieties of P. pruinosa called “Cossack Pineapple” and “Goldie”. I figured that since poha grows so well, perhaps some of the related species will too.
I started the seeds in the greenhouse then planted them in three areas: in the garden experimental zone, along the far fence (next to some vigorous poha) and on the terrace in the tea field. The results: unexpected.
Instead of a large bush like poha, my P. pruinosa grows creeping along the ground! At first, i thought that perhaps some it was some conditions (too much rain, wrong soil?). But it’s creeping in all three places, with amended soil, and it is making plenty of fruit which would imply that nutrients aren’t a big problem:
The fruits are small (1.3-1.5 cm, which is around 1/2″ to 19/32″ for masochists who like inch fractions). That’s roughly what was advertised (1/2″ to 3/4″), but it’s a bit smaller than typical hawaiian poha. The main problem (beside the creeping low plants) is that it seems to be dropping lots of fruit before it ripens, so the harvest is barely yellow, mostly green. For comparison, this is how poha grows: easily to 2m (6′):
Here’s some P. pruinosa planted on the ground right next to it:
In regards to fruit, we almost never get any fruit from our poha. I’ve suspected that the abundant wild turkeys and pheasants devour them, although i’ve never been certain. My pruinosa tests seem to support the idea: the plants inside my garden fence are loaded with fruit, whereas those by the far fence or open tea field, where turkeys are busy every day, have almost none):
Here’s the harvested fruit:
Conclusion: pruinosa not too successful. Those mostly-unripe fruits are tart, so i’ll probably mash them into a jam with added sugar for balance. I may as well just grow poha, and do it inside my protected garden area.
There is one other Physalis contender left to try, though: the Giant Ground Cherry from Trade Winds Fruit, which promises “large growing and large-fruiting … up to and a bit over an inch”! I’ve ordered the seeds and will try them soon.