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Physalis peruviana (physalis = bladder) is the plant and its fruit, also known as cape gooseberry (South Africa), Inca berry, Aztec berry, golden berry, giant ground cherry, Peruvian groundcherry, Peruvian cherry (U.S.), poha (Hawaii), ras bhari (India), aguaymanto (Peru), uvilla (Ecuador), uchuva (Colombia) and (rarely) physalis.[1] It is indigenous to South America, but has been cultivated in England since the late 18th century and in South Africa in the region of the Cape of Good Hope since at least the start of the 19th century.


Physalis peruviana is closely related to the tomatillo, a fellow member of the genus Physalis. As a member of the plant family Solanaceae, it is more distantly related to a large number of edible plants, including tomato, eggplant, and potato, and other members of the nightshades. It is not closely related to the cherry, Ribes gooseberry, Indian gooseberry, or Chinese gooseberry, as its various names might suggest.

The fruit is a smooth berry, resembling a miniature spherical yellow tomato. Removed from its bladder-like calyx, it is about the size of a marble, about 1–2 cm in diameter. Like a tomato, it contains numerous small seeds. It is bright yellow to orange in color, and it is sweet when ripe, with a characteristic, mildly tart flavor, making it ideal for snacks, pies or jams. It is popular in salads and fruit salads, sometimes combined with avocado.

A prominent feature is the inflated, papery calyx enclosing each berry. The calyx is accrescent; at first it is of normal size, but after the petals fall it continues to grow until it forms a protective cover round the growing fruit. Because of the fruit’s decorative appearance, it is popular in restaurants as an exotic garnish for desserts. If the fruit is left inside the husks, its shelf life at room temperature is about 30–45 days.

Geographic and cultivation origins

Native to high-altitude, tropical Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador where the fruits grow wild, physalis is casually eaten and occasionally sold in markets. Only recently has the plant become an important crop; it has been widely introduced into cultivation in other tropical, subtropical and even temperate areas.

The plant was grown by early settlers of the Cape of Good Hope before 1807. It is not clear whether it was grown there before its introduction to England, but sources since the mid-19th century attribute the common name, “Cape gooseberry” to this fact.[2][3] A popular suggestion is that the name properly refers to the calyx surrounding the fruit like a cape. This seems however, to be an example of folk etymology or false etymology, because it does not appear in publications earlier than the mid 20th century.

Not long after its introduction to South Africa, Physalis peruviana was introduced into Australia, New Zealand, and various Pacific islands.[4]

In South Africa, it is commercially cultivated; canned fruits and jam are staple commodities, often exported. It is also cultivated and naturalized on a small scale in Gabon and other parts of Central Africa.

Soon after its adoption in the Cape of Good Hope, it was carried to Australia, where it was one of the few fresh fruits of the early settlers in New South Wales. It is also favored in New Zealand, where it is said “the housewife is sometimes embarrassed by the quantity of berries in the garden”,[5] and government agencies promote increased culinary use. It is also grown in India, and is called rasbhari (रसभरी) in Hindi.

The cape gooseberry is also grown in northeastern China, namely Heilongjiang province, as a seasonal fruit harvested in late August through September. In Chinese pinyin, the fruit is informally referred to as gu niao (菇茑), its Turkish name is altın çilek, and the scientific name is Physalis pubescens L or in Chinese pinyin mao suan jiang (毛酸浆).

It has been widely grown in Egypt for at least half a century, and is known locally as harankash حرنكش, a word of obscure origin, or as is-sitt il-mistahiya الست المستحية (the shy woman), a reference to the papery sheath. It makes an excellent substitute for apples, in crumble, for example.

Medical research, folk medicine and potential health value

Scientific studies of the cape gooseberry show its constituents, possibly polyphenols and/or carotenoids, demonstrate anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.[6][7][8]

The crude extract of the fruit-bearing plant has demonstrated antihepatoma and anti-inflammatory activities.[9][10]

It has shown possible antidiabetes and antihypertension properties in vitro.[11]

Some “withanolides” isolated from the plant have shown anticancer activity[12] The unusual 5-chloride withanolide, 9, displayed significant cytotoxic activity.

Antihepatotoxic effects (in rats) against CCl4 were found.[13]

Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) has been found in the plant. Evidence, mainly from animal models, suggests melatonin administration may help to prevent or cure diseases associated with oxidative stress, including neurodegenerative diseases, which frequently occur during aging.[14]

In folk medicine, Physalis peruviana has been used as a medicinal herb to treat cancer, leukemia, malaria, asthma, hepatitis, dermatitis and rheumatism.[15] None of these diseases, however, is yet confirmed in human clinical in vivo studies as treatable by the cape gooseberry.

Pests and diseases

In South Africa, cutworms are the most important of the many insect pests that attack the cape gooseberry in seedbeds; red spiders after plants have been established in the field; and the potato tuber moth if the cape gooseberry is in the vicinity of potato fields. Hares damage young plants, and birds eat the fruits if not repelled. In India, mites may cause defoliation. In Jamaica, the leaves were suddenly riddled by what were apparently flea beetles. In the Bahamas, whitefly attacks on the very young plants and flea beetles on the flowering plants required control.[5]

In South Africa, the most troublesome diseases are powdery mildew and soft brown scale. The plants are prone to root rots and viruses if on poorly-drained soil or if carried over to a second year. Therefore, farmers favor biennial plantings. Bacterial leaf spot (Xanthomonas spp.) occurs in Queensland. A strain of tobacco mosaic virus may affect plants in India.[5] In New Zealand, plants can be infected by Candidatus liberibacter subsp. solanacearum.[16]

Written on June 18th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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    Bobbie commented

    The abitily to think like that shows you’re an expert

    25 November 2016 at 17:49

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