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Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana)

Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana)

Cape Gooseberry is actually a tomato

Cape Gooseberry was originally native to Brazil and grows to around a metre tall and is generally grown not for its flowers but for its attractive fruit. It and some of its close relatives are also called “Chinese lantern” or “Japanese lantern” because of its resemblance to decorative light fixtures featured in formal gardens and temples in eastern Asia. Other common names are ground-cherry, wild tomato, husk tomato, and tomatillo.

Cape Gooseberries have an old relationship with Australia, first arriving from South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope to the early settlements in New South Wales. Cape Gooseberries were among the first fresh fruits in our colonies. They seem to have gone out of favour and one can only assume that this is because they are generally considered to be a weed.

Cape Gooseberry are in fact not related to cherries nor to gooseberries, but are members of the tomato family and upon inspection, the fruit resembles small tomatoes rather closely.  The major difference is the papery husk surrounding the fruit. This husk is green while the fruit is unripe and turns straw-coloured or whitish as the fruit ripens. The fruit ripens to a golden colour with golden flesh. (When you pick Cape Gooseberries, they will last longer if kept in their husks until you want to use them.)

Cape Gooseberries are self pollinating and the fruit takes between 2 to 3 months to ripen.

There are many types of Cape Gooseberries, including bright orange ornaments whose fruit can be green or else green with a touch of purple. These are edible, although it is not recommended you eat them when green and can be used in a variety of ways.  

In North America, where they have long been referred to as ground-cherries, people use them in pies or to make into jam. The Mexican use of Cape Gooseberry is quite different. It is often blended with hot chilis, onions and other ingredients to make salsa verde. This salsa verde is then poured over enchiladas or used as a condiment on beans, meat or fish. You can easily do this too.

Image: homydesign/Shutterstock

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