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Solanaceae, Physalis peruviana, Cape Gooseberry, uchuva – S. America

March 29, 2012

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Here are a few photos of Physalis peruviana, also known as Cape Gooseberry,  a member of the Solanaceae family, related to such common species as tomato, tomatillo, eggplant, potato. It is also related to Tobacco,  Brugmansia, Datura, Brunfelsia, and Iochroma species. Solanaceae is a large family. Other names for Physalis include: 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).

Physalis peruviana has naturalized on my hillside in N. California. Despite the fact that it is native to the subtropical highlands of the Andes, it seems to be doing quite well here, flowering and producing good fruit year round. In its native region the Cape Gooseberry is enjoyed as a minor  fruit and can be found in markets. It is cultivated commercially on a relatively small scale in Hawaii, California, South Africa, East Africa, India, New Zealand, and Australia. Physalis seems to do well wherever tomatoes do well and holds much potential as a specialty commercial crop.

As you can see in the photos, the edible part of the plant is the orange berry which is about the size of a marble or a cherry tomato. The berry is encased in a papery husk.

Medicinally cape gooseberry contains polyphenols and/or carotenoids which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Melatonin has also been found in the plant. In folk medicine Physalis peruviana has been used as a medicinal herb to treat cancer, leukemia, malaria, asthma, hepatitis, dermatitis and rheumatism.

Click individual photos below to enlarge…

 

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2012 10:08:49 am

    I too have this plant passed on through my family from when I was a little girl. The property that we inherited from my dad when he died had a large shrub that has now been through many chickens and has spread all over the place. I don’t mind, I like the flavour of them and should ANY be left by the hens, I will harvest them. I think that the red husked variety is an especially attractive addition to the ornamental (and forest) garden.

  2. May 24, 2012 10:08:44 am

    I just found dried/dehydrated P. peruviana in a store in Athens, very good.

  3. june permalink
    May 24, 2012 10:08:55 pm

    we have this growing wild here in tennessee and I have eaten them when I was a child.

    • May 24, 2012 10:08:04 pm

      Very interesting, they must grow as an annual there. Thank you for the comment.

  4. DS_RA permalink
    July 12, 2012 10:08:25 pm

    Most members of the Solanaceae family are not recommended for those with arthritis, gout and RA. However the article indicates that “Medicinally cape gooseberry contains polyphenols and/or carotenoids which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.”
    Could you comment on the cholinesterase inhibiting glycoalkaloids and steroids in the cape gooseberry?

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