Physalis peruviana

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Cape gooseberry flower

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Physalis peruviana

Kingdom Plantae
Order Solanales
Family Solanaceae
Genus Physalis
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Cape gooseberry fruit

Physalis peruviana ('physalis' = bladder), known in English as Cape gooseberry (South Africa), Inca berry, golden berry, giant ground cherry, Peruvian groundcherry, Peruvian cherry (U.S.), poha (Hawaii), ras bhari (India), aguaymanto (Peru), uvilla (Ecuador), uchuva (Colombia) and physalis.[1] It is indigenous to South America but was cultivated in South Africa in the region of the Cape of Good Hope during the 19th century, imparting the common name, "cape gooseberry".

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

The fruit is a small round berry about the size of a marble with numerous small yellow seeds. It is bright yellow and sweet when ripe, making it ideal for snacks, pies or jams. It is popular in fruit salads, sometimes combined with avocado.

Its most notable feature is the inflated papery calyx enclosing each berry. Because of the fruit's decorative appearance, it is sometimes used in restaurants as an exotic garnish for desserts. If the fruit is left inside the husks, its shelf life at room temperature is over 30–45 days.

Geographic and cultivation origins

Native to high altitude tropical Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru where the fruits grow wild, physalis are 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. 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 (presumably the origin of the name 'Cape gooseberry'), 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 that "the housewife is sometimes embarrassed by the quantity of berries in the garden",[2] 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 North Eastern China, namely Heilongjiang province. A seasonal fruit harvested in late August through September. In Chinese pinyin, the fruit is informally referred to as "gu niao" (菇茑),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 crumble, substituting harankash for apples, 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.[3][4][5]

The crude extract of the fruit bearing plant, has demonstrated anti-hepatoma and anti-inflammatory activities.[6]


Antidiabetes and antihypertension in vitro?[8]

Some "withanolides" isolated from the plant have shown anti-cancer activity[9] The unusual 5-chloride withanolide, 9, displayed significant cytotoxic activity.

Antihepatotoxic (in rats)[10]

Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) has been found in the plant. Evidence, mainly from animal models, suggests that melatonin administration may help to prevent or cure diseases associated with oxidative stress, including neurodegenerative diseases, which frequently occur during aging.[11]

In folk medicine, Physalis peruviana has been used as a medicinal herb for cancer, leukemia, malaria, asthma, hepatitis, dermatitis and rheumatism.[12] 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, the most important of the many insect pests that attack the cape gooseberry are cutworms, in seedbeds; red spider after plants have been established in the field; 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.[2]

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 may affect plants in India.[2] In New Zealand plants can be infected by 'Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum' [13]


  1. Ad Hoc Panel of the Advisory Committee on Technology Innovation, Board on Science and Technology for International Development, National Research Council (1989). Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. pp. 249–50. ISBN 978-0-309-07461-2. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Morton, J.F.; Russell, O.S. (1954). "The cape gooseberry and the Mexican husk tomato". Florida State Horticultural Society 67: 261–266. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  3. Wu, SJ; Tsai JY, Chang SP, Lin DL, Wang SS, Huang SN, Ng LT (2006). "Supercritical carbon dioxide extract exhibits enhanced antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of Physalis peruviana". J Ethnopharmacol 108 (3): 407–13. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2006.05.027. PMID 16820275. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  4. Franco, LA; Matiz GE, Calle J, Pinzón R, Ospina LF (2007). "Antiinflammatory activity of extracts and fractions obtained from Physalis peruviana L. calyces". Biomedica 1 (1): 110–5. PMID 17546228. 
  5. Pardo, JM; Fontanilla MR, Ospina LF, Espinosa L. (2008). "Determining the pharmacological activity of Physalis peruviana fruit juice on rabbit eyes and fibroblast primary cultures". Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 7 (7): 3074–9. doi:10.1167/iovs.07-0633. PMID 18579763. 
  6. beta-Hydroxywithanolide E from Physalis peruviana (golden berry) inhibits growth of human lung cancer cells through DNA damage, apoptosis and G2/M arrest. BMC Cancer. 2010;10:46 Authors: Yen CY, Chiu CC, Chang FR, Chen JY, Hwang CC, Hseu YC, Yang HL, Lee AY, Tsai MT, Guo ZL, Cheng YS, Liu YC, Lan YH, Chang YC, Ko YC, Chang HW, Wu YC The crude ex
  7. Antioxidant activities of Physalis peruviana Wu S.-J., Ng L.-T., Huang Y.-M., Lin D.-L., Wang S.-S., Huang S.-N., Lin C.-C. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 2005 28:6 (963-966)
  8. Evaluation of antihyperglycemia and antihypertension potential of native Peruvian fruits using in vitro models Pinto M.D.S., Ranilla L.G., Apostolidis E., Lajolo F.M., Genovese M.I., Shetty K. Journal of Medicinal Food 2009 12:2 (278-291)
  9. New cytotoxic withanolides from Physalis peruviana Lan Y.-H., Chang F.-R., Pan M.-J., Wu C.-C., Wu S.-J., Chen S.-L., Wang S.-S., Wu M.-J., Wu Y.-C. Food Chemistry 2009 116:2 (462-469)
  10. Preliminary studies on antihepatotoxic effect of Physalis peruviana Linn. (Solanaceae) against carbon tetrachloride induced acute liver injury in rats Arun M., Asha V.V. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2007 111:1 (110-114)
  11. Levels of the antioxidant melatonin in fruits of edible berry species Kolar J., Malbeck J. Planta Medica 2009 75:9
  12. Supercritical carbon dioxide extract of Physalis peruviana induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in human lung cancer H661 cells Wu S.-J., Chang S.-P., Lin D.-L., Wang S.-S., Hou F.-F., Ng L.-T. Food and Chemical Toxicology 2009 47:6 (1132-1138)
  13. Liefting, L. W.; L. I. Ward, J. B. Shiller, and G. R. G. Clover (2008). "A New ‘Candidatus Liberibacter’ Species in Solanum betaceum (Tamarillo) and Physalis peruviana (Cape Gooseberry) in New Zealand". Plant Disease 92 (11): 1588. doi:10.1094/PDIS-92-11-1588B. Retrieved 2009-01-01.