Origin: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Improvement status: Cultivar
Seeds per packet: ~50
Germination tested 11/2022: 98%
Life cycle: Annual
EFN INTRODUCTION. We're very excited to be offering this variety to the public for the very first time. The original seed came from fruit purchased at a roadside stand in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, some years ago by the Experimental Farm Network’s Nate Kleinman. Mary was the name of the woman selling them, and she said at the time that she had been growing these and saving her own seed for more years than she could remember. The fruit were particularly sweet and flavorful, so Nate brought them back across the border (receiving permission from border guards, who were only concerned about citrus fruit), dried a few seeds, put them in a plastic bag, and promptly forgot about them for many years. Upon growing them out for the first time a couple years ago, the plants quickly impressed with their earliness, their reliably sweet fruits, and their especially low profile: each averages roughly a three to four foot spread, but with the sprawling branches hovering only a few inches off the ground. A bed of 'Mary's Niagara' appears so flat it almost resembles an actual bed. They are a good candidate to be attempted in short-season areas where other nightshades like tomatoes, peppers, or egpplants, might be challenging. Productive, precocious, and delicious, these ground cherries might just become the new gold standard!
GROWING TIPS: Ground cherries can take a while to germinate, so don't give up on them! They may take two weeks to germinate, or even longer. We recommend starting seeds indoors in March or early April — surface sown and kept moist — and transplanting them out in the field after danger of last frost. Plants could be two feet apart, maybe more. They may take a little while to get established and comfy in the field, but wait for that tipping point when they go wild. Prefers full sun.