Exotic Appeal of Physalis

Cape Gooseberry fruit, Physalis Peruvian, hidden in calyx and cut open to reveal tomato-like seeds. © Karen Andrews

If you wish to add an exotic touch to a special meal this Christmas, then look no further than Physalis peruviana. This orange-yellow fruit is commonly called the Cape Gooseberry. The fruit ripens from October and can be found in stores from autumn into winter.

The Cape

How did this tropical South American fruit become associated with South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope? There are two possible explanations. Firstly, the fruit has become particularly popular in South Africa, as it is now cultivated there as in many other regions outside its native range of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. Secondly, it is more doubtfully suggested that the original name was the Caped Gooseberry. This refers to the fruit’s highly distinctive calyx that envelops the maturing fruit like a cape. The persistent calyx takes on a papery texture as the fruit ripens.

Tomato Relative

The Cape Gooseberry is a member of the Solanaceae or Nightshade family, like tomatoes and potatoes. When you cut a Physalis open, you can clearly see the fruit’s resemblance to a cherry tomato complete with pips. The taste is a mouthwatering sweet-sour contrast.

Gastronomic Appeal

The best gastronomic restaurant prize the Cape Gooseberry for its tart flavour and artistic appeal. It adds a touch of class to exotic fruit salads, as well as being an excellent ingredient in jams, jellies and tarts. The fruit finds particular favour in French pâtisserie. Ripe fruits may even be served as delicate, sugared or glazed petit fours.

Chefs like to use the Cape Gooseberry, Physalis Peruvian to add artistic flair to a dessert plate.
Chefs like to use the Cape Gooseberry, Physalis peruviana, to add artistic flair to a dessert plate. © Karen Andrews

Decorative Appeal

It is important to confuse the Cape Gooseberry with other members of the Physalis genus. The more brightly-coloured calyces of Physalis alkekengi, are known as Chinese Lanterns. They are especially popular for dried flower decorations. I found it used as part of a spectacular Halloween display by a Bath restaurant in October. There’s no reason why you cannot use such dried Physalis decorations to brighten the home at Christmas too.

Chinese Lanterns, Physalis alkekengi, featured in a restaurant’s spectacular Halloween display in October.
© Karen Andrews

© Karen Andrews

References and Further Reading

  • Davidson, Alan (2006): The Oxford Companion to Food. Second Edition. Ed. Tom Jaine. Oxford University Press.
  • Le Monde (2017): Coqueret de Pérou (Physalis peruviana), ou groseille du Cap. Jardiner.
  • Maree, Johannes & van Wyk, Ben-Erik (2010): Cut Flowers of the World. Briza Publications, South Africa.
  • van Wyk, Ben-Erik (2005): Food plants of the World. An illustrated guide. Timber Press.


Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.

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