Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana L) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana L) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana L) Overview

Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana L) other names: Alkékenge, Alquequenje, Amour en Cage, Cape Gooseberry, Cerise d’Hiver, Cerise de Terre, Chinese Lantern, Coqueret, Coqueret Alkékenge, Corazoncillo, Farolillo Chino, Groseille du Cap, Herbe à Cloques, Herbe aux Cloques, Herbe à la Pierre, Japanese Lantern, Jin Deng Long, Lanterne Chinoise, Lanterne Japonaise, Physalis, Physalis alkekengi, Strawberry Tomato.

Herbs in the Physalis species belonging to the Solanaceae family are both annual as well as perennial and bear spherical fruits each of which is surrounded by a case resembling a bladder. When the fruit ripens, this bladder-like husk becomes papery or wispy. Although more that 70 species of herbs belong to the Solanaceae family, only a handful of them actually have any economic worth. The strawberry tomato, ground cherry or husk tomato is one such species that is cultivated for its small yellow colored fruits that are made use of while preparing sauces, pies and preservatives. This variety of plant was highly popular among the earlier generations, but people selling seeds continue to market them. Another fruit of the same species that bears bigger and better quality fruits and has become extensively popular is the cape gooseberry, P. Peruviana L.

Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana L) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana L) fruit

This flowery and herbaceous (soft-wooded) plant is perennial and normally reaches a height of two to three feet. However, at times, they grow even higher and may attain a height of around six feet or 1.8 meters. The branches of cape gooseberry are ribbed, mostly having a purplish hue and spread over a large area. The leaves of cape gooseberry grow opposite to one another on the branches, are velvety, have a heart shape, are pointed and are haphazardly-toothed. The leaves of this perennial herb are two and 3/8 inches to 6 inches in length and 1.5 inches to four inches in width. The bell-shaped, nodding flowers of the herb blossom at the leaf axils that are around 3/ 4 inch wide. The flowers of cape gooseberry are yellowish in color with five deep purplish-brown spots in the throat and are cupped by a purple-green husk that is much bigger than the fruit it enfolds. The fruit or berry of the cape gooseberry is ball-shaped and 1/2 to 3/ 4 inches in diameter having a soft, lustrous and orange-yellow exterior. The pulp of the berry is juicy and contains tiny seeds that are yellowish in color. The fully ripened fruits have a sweet flavor with a pleasant savor something similar to the grapes. The husk or coating of the fruit is bitter to taste and is not edible.

The calyx of the herb inflates after the deflowering giving rise to a husk that is straw colored and many times larger compared to the fruit it enfolds. It takes around 70 to 80 days for the husk to mature or the fruit to ripen. In effect, the cape gooseberry fruit is a berry having a smooth, wax-like and orange-yellow membrane, while the luscious pulp of the berry encloses copious tiny seeds that have a yellowish hue. As soon as the fruits of the cape gooseberry ripen, they begin to fall on the ground where they continue to mature and transform their color from yellow to golden-yellow - an indication that they have ripened completely. Many people consider the unripe or raw cape gooseberry fruit to be poisonous and believe that if consumed, it may result in serious adverse effects. However, this aspect of the fruit is yet to be ascertained. The cape gooseberry plants pollinate by themselves. In other words, these plants are self-pollinating and their pollination may be augmented by gently wobbling the flowering stems or by using a light water spray on the plants.

The cape gooseberry was first adopted in the Cape of Good Hope on the Atlantic coast on the southern tip of South Africa and this gave the plant its name. Soon after this, the cape gooseberry was transported to Australia where it got its frequently used English name. In fact, the cape gooseberry was among the few fruits planted by the first settlers in New South Wales of the island continent. People in New South Wales have cultivated the cape gooseberry since long and also naturalized it. Gradually, the cape gooseberry was adopted in other Australian provinces such as Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and even Northern Tasmania where it is now cultivated extensively. Later, the government agencies in New Zealand too adopted the cape gooseberry and promoted the plant actively for its augmented use in culinary.

The cultivation of the cape gooseberry differs according to the climatic conditions. While the cape gooseberry is an annual in the regions having a temperate climate, cape gooseberry is grown perennially in the tropical regions.

Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana L) Health Benefits

Cape gooseberry is an herb. The ripened fruit is used to make medicine.

People take cape gooseberry to treat arthritis and gout; and to increase urine flow (as a diuretic) in kidney and bladder conditions.

Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana L) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana L) flower

Cape gooseberries are usually canned as whole fruits or conserved in the form of jam. Apart from this, people use cape gooseberries to prepare sauces, use them in pies, chutneys, puddings, ice creams and also consume them fresh by incorporating the berries in fruit salads and fruit cocktails. People in Colombia stew or cook cape gooseberries with honey and consume them as dessert. On the other hand, the British have also found a use of the husk, which they use as a handle to dip the cape gooseberry fruits in icing. It is interesting to note that during the 18th century, the native women in Peru perfumed the cape gooseberry fruits and often used them for ornamentation. It may be mentioned here that the fully-grown or ripened cape gooseberries are believed to be rich in vitamin P content and also enclose significant quantity of pectin.

Therapeutic use of cape gooseberry: The leaves of the cape gooseberry are said to possess therapeutic value and are used in different places to cure different ailments. Herbal medical practitioners in Colombia recommend the use of a decoction prepared with the leaves of the cape gooseberry plant as a diuretic as well as an anti-asthmatic. Again, people in South Africa heat the plant's leaves and apply them as a poultice on inflamed areas of the skin. The native Zulu tribe in Africa uses an infusion prepared with the cape gooseberry leaves as an enema (a procedure used to clean the bowel of feces by injecting a liquid through the anus) to alleviate abdominal disorders in children.

Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana L) Side effects

Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana L) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana L) plant

Although cape gooseberries are consumed in a variety of forms, raw or unripe fruits of the cape gooseberry are said to be poisonous and, if consumed, may result in serious adverse effects. It is said that the cape gooseberry has been responsible for several ailments and cattle deaths in Australia, where cape gooseberry is cultivated extensively.

There isn’t enough information available to know if cape gooseberry is safe or what the possible side effects might be.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of cape gooseberry during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.