Order: Solanales, Family: Solanaceae, Genus: Physalis
Uses are similar to common tomato. Can be eaten raw, used in salads, desserts, as a flavoring, and in jams and jellies, also can be dried.
Cape gooseberries have many medicinal uses and health benefits. Leaves are used as diuretics; improve abdominal conditions, as poultices on many inflammations, and to treat asthma. Nutritional content helps improve the immunity system, help in controlling blood pressure level, and it is the good source of anti-oxidants (vitamin C).
The Cape gooseberry is a useful small crop for the home garden, but tends to be labor-intensive in commercial plantings. Now it is grown all around, mostly in Africa and Australia.
Botanical description and occurrence:
This herbaceous or soft-wooded, perennial plant usually reaches 1.6-0.9 m in height but occasionally may attain 1.8 m. It has ribbed, often purplish, spreading branches, and nearly opposite, velvety, heart-shaped, pointed, randomly-toothed leaves 6-15 cm long and 4-10 cm wide. In the leaf axils has bell-shaped, nodding flowers to 2 cm wide, yellow with 5 dark purple-brown spots in the throat, and cupped by a purplish-green, hairy, 5-pointed calyx. After the flower falls, the calyx expands, ultimately forming a straw-colored husk much larger than the fruit it encloses. The berry is globose, 1.25-2 cm wide, with smooth, glossy, orange-yellow skin and juicy pulp containing numerous very small yellowish seeds. When fully ripe, the fruit is sweet but with a pleasing grape-like tang. The husk is bitter and inedible.
The Cape gooseberry is native to Brazil but long ago became naturalized in the highlands of Peru and Chile and became identified with the region.
Generative: plant is widely grown from seed sown in early or latest spring by mid-March (best planted when soil temperatures are between 10°C and 25°C.)
Vegetative: from 1 year old stems cuttings treated with a rooting hormone
Harvesting: harvest after 14-16 weeks. The fruits are usually picked from the plants every 2 to 3 weeks.
Why to have the plant in your garden:
The plant is rich in vitamin C, vitamin P, and potassium. The fruit is very low in calorie content. Cape gooseberries contain a particular type of soluble fiber.
The Cape gooseberry leaves are cooked and eaten as spinach by some tribes since ages, which obviously mean the leaves are nutritious.
Ing. Ján Farkaš, SUA, Nitra, Slovak Republic
Dr. Ivana Mezeyová, SUA, Nitra, Slovak Republic