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What Is a Cape Gooseberry?

By Jennifer Voight
Updated May 16, 2024
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The cape gooseberry is the edible yellow-orange fruit of the Physalis peruviana plant. It is native to Brazil, Chile, and Peru and is currently cultivated in tropical and semi-tropical locations around the world on every continent except Antarctica. The fruit is spherical, grows to 0.75 inch (2 cm) in diameter, and is enclosed by a loose, papery husk. Ripe cape gooseberries have a sweet-tart flavor and are eaten fresh or made into jams, sauces, or chutneys. Unripe cape gooseberries may be toxic and should never be eaten.

Although the cape gooseberry is native to tropical South America, it can be grown as an annual in temperate zones. The cape gooseberry grows best in well-drained, sandy soil in full sun, well protected from the wind. The berries require a great deal of water while growing but little water once the fruits develop.

Each cape gooseberry contains thousands of tiny yellow edible seeds. They may be grown from seed, although germination rates are poor. Sometimes cape gooseberry plants are propagated from cuttings. They succeed about one-third of the time, and plants do less well than those grown from seed. When the plant is finally established, a single plant may produce up to 300 fruits in a single year.

Once the fruit has ripened, cape gooseberries should be picked when the plant is dry or the fruits have dried in the sun after picking. The fruit will continue to ripen after being picked. Cape gooseberry fruits are sold with or without husks intact and may store well for several months. Usually husks are removed before they are sold, and even husked cape gooseberries store well.

Around the world, cape gooseberries are a popular dessert fruit. They may be preserved and canned or made into pies, jams, or puddings. Sometimes they are eaten raw as part of fruit salad or with honey. Cape gooseberries contain phosphorous, calcium, and vitamins A and C. They contain some substances that may have some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, although there are no published studies on the medicinal value of the cape gooseberry.

The fruits are known by many names throughout the regions in which they are grown, including giant groundcherry, Inca berry, and golden berry. The cape gooseberry is a member of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes. It is closely related to the tomatillo. The cape gooseberry may have gotten its name from the Cape of Good Hope, where it was cultivated around 1807, or from its husk, which is also known as a cape.

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