Ground cherries for the chickens

Ground cherriesA patch of ground cherries
sprang up under one of my peach trees last year, and I left it alone
under some vague recollection that the fruits were edible.  Later,
I read that
Americans in our area did exactly the same thing, weeding around wild
edibles like ground cherries that popped up in their corn fields then
eating the “wild” fruits
.  Unfortunately, I
missed the last step — actually
eating the ground cherries — so I
was surprised to notice that the fruits were still present and in good
shape at the end of January.  Chicken feed?

Chickens eating ground cherries

Preparing ground cherry seeds

The flock says a
resounding yes!  It took a minute for the rooster to figure out
how to get through the papery hull to the sweet fruit, but then he
taught the whole flock and soon not a single ground cherry was left.

Since late winter is the
time when a chicken flock is most likely to be malnourished (no wild
bugs! no copious kitchen scraps!), I decided it would be worth planting
some ground cherries for our chickens to consume next year.  I
squeezed out the insides of a few fruits and then put them in a
container of water just like I would with tomato seeds.  After
about a week, mold forms on the surface of the water, which is your
clue that the fruits have rotted enough to let the seeds float
free.  Remove the mold, pour off the water, rinse the seeds, and
dry them for spring planting.

Our homemade chicken
never spills or fills with poop.

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