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