Cape gooseberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow, as they adapt to a variety of climates and elevations. Countries have given the fruit various names, most notably husk cherry, goldenberry, and physalis. Confusingly, Indians call the fruit rasbhari yet it bears no relation to the similar-sounding raspberry.
Origin of Cape Gooseberry
Cape gooseberries originate in the Andean mountains of Peru and parts of Chile, although some botanists believe Brazil is their home. Its namesake, “Cape gooseberry,” came in the early 1800s from the settlers of the Cape of Good Hope. From South Africa, the fruit spread and naturalized in Gabon and through Central Africa. Australia also received cape gooseberries by way of South Africa, and the fruits continue to thrive there in abundance today.
Its arrival in Europe was marked in 1774, due to its appearance in England.
Cape gooseberries probably arrived to India by way of Rio de Janeiro, but the exact date is unknown. Reference books on India’s flora and fauna mention Physalis peruviana as early as the 1830s. Some of Cape gooseberry’s cultivars originated Asia, including beautiful Physalis alkekengi, also known as the beautiful papery Chinese lantern fruit.
Colombia and Zimbabwe dominate the world’s Cape gooseberry production: Colombia excels in its quality and quantity, and Zimbabwe’s advantage is its low freight costs. Several regions have since commercialized their production efforts: Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, India, parts of Caribbean, Peru, Brazil, Hawaii, Australia, and the south and east of Africa are a few.
South American countries tend to be net exporters of Cape gooseberries, whereas most European countries are net importers, including Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.
Availability of Cape Gooseberry in India
India’s gooseberry season is January through May, although the North’s season doesn’t start until February. In the North, cape gooseberries can grow at an elevation up to 4,000 feet, and in the South, up to 6,000 feet. Regions of India cultivating the fruit commercially are West Bengal, north India, and eastern India.
The perennial Cape gooseberry can grow wherever tomatoes grow In India’s southern hill countries.
Where to find Cape Gooseberry in India
Cape gooseberries grow wild along India’s roads, back yards and open fields with porous soils. The fruiting season lasts from February through May.
India’s commercialized efforts are concentrated in the north. In Delhi, for example, one finds gooseberries sold on ramshackle carts and offered on high-end hotel buffets. In the south, they’re a novelty found only select markets, or in villages. It’s hard to say why gooseberries are not more popular—they grow in a variety of conditions and can withstand tough shipping conditions.
Checking for Ripeness in Cape Gooseberry
Unripe fruits are green, and develop a golden orange hue when ready for consumption. When ripe, gooseberries should fall upon shaking the branches and will continue to ripen over the course of a few weeks. The size of ripe gooseberries varies considerably: Some large fruits become the size of a golf ball, while smallish ones only grow to the size of a marble. Look for fruits with a round, smooth and exterior and glossy sheen.
Note: unripe berries are toxic, and have caused deaths and illnesses amongst Australia’s cattle populations. Few reports, however, indicate that unripe fruits are severely toxic for humans. To err on the safe side, wait until the fruit is fully ripe before consuming.
Taste of Cape Gooseberry
The gooseberry is related to tomatillo, and shares similarities with its sweetish, tomato flavor. Gooseberries are mildly citrusy, tart, sweet and mellow with earthy undertones. Metallic notes also become present after eating one or two fruits. Just like tomatoes, gooseberries have many soft, edible seeds that don’t require removal.
The texture of a cape gooseberry is like a plum tomato’s—its juice explodes upon biting into the glossy, fleshy skin. Perfectly ripe fruits require no sugar, and some claim the sweetness parallels grapes.
Nutritional Value of Cape Gooseberry
According to the book, “Nutritive Value of Indian Foods,” 100g of Cape gooseberry contains the following values:
1428 ug Carotene
49mg Vitamin C
Health Benefits of Cape Gooseberry
Cape gooseberry’s high amount of vitamin A protects the eyes, maintains bone and skin health, prevents the formation of cataracts, and wards off macular degeneration. Cape gooseberries are also a great source of pectin, a compound critical for calcium absorption.
In Ayurveda, the book, “Encyclopaedia of Indian Medicine,” explains that cape gooseberries alleviate kapha and vata. They also relieve swelling and promote the appetite. The fruit also acts as a diuretic, laxative, and purgative. When mixed with mustard oil and water, the leaves cure earaches.
The Muthuvan tribes and Tamilian natives of Kerala have used the Cape gooseberry as a medicinal herb to ward off jaundice, the efficacy of which has been confirmed by conventional science.
The scientific community has found the following benefits of Cape gooseberries:
--Researchers in Taiwan found that fruit extracts inhibit lung cancer cell growth
--Cape gooseberries have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
--A 2007 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that compounds in the fruit have anti-hepatotoxic activities
--A report in the Journal of Food and Biochemistry reveals that Cape gooseberry juice regulates cholesterol levels and protects the liver from oxidative stress. The phytochemicals in the juice also show promise relieving the pain of atherosclerosis
Note: cape gooseberries are part of the nightshade family, and thus contain mildly poisonous alkaloids. Waiting until the fruit fully ripens reduces the amount of these poisons. If eating slightly undercooked eggplant elicits an allergic reaction, use caution when eating cape gooseberries.
How to Open/Cut
Cape gooseberries have a papery thin skin that resembles a paper lantern. To remove, grab the stem and twist—the thin shell should peel off easily once torn. Only husk the fruit when it’s ready for consumption. Without the shell, it deteriorates rapidly.
Store Cape gooseberries in the refrigerator, where they’ll last from 5 days to 2 weeks, depending on their ripeness and if their husk is maintained. Most fruits sold on the Indian market are sold without the husk.
If harvesting the fruits for long-term storage, pick semi-ripe gooseberries and keep the husk intact. Though the fruit will never be as sweet as it would have been if picked fully ripe, cape gooseberries will keep for two or three months when placed in a dry container. The key to preserving the fruits is dryness—if any moisture is present on the husks, then sun dry or lightly dehydrate to avoid fungal infections or rot. In cool storage of 2C, the fruits will keep for four to five months.
Cape gooseberries freeze well: store whole fruits in a freezer bag, where they’ll last for up to a year.
Cape Gooseberry Recipe Ideas and Uses
Cape gooseberries have many culinary applications.
--Make preserves and jams by boiling the berries with water, lemon juice, and sugar. Use a 1:1 ratio of fruits to sugar—300 grams of fruit, then, should have 300 grams of sugar.
--Reduce into compote: place cut fruits into a saucepan, and boil in water and sugar. Reduce to a simmer, and add arrowroot powder. Stir until the sauce is syrupy. Add oil until the desired thickness, consistency and richness is achieved.
--Dip whole fruits in chocolate or toffee for a sweet/sour taste akin to chocolate covered cranberries. Serve with coffee, as is common in Europe.
--Make a tart filling: halved fruits can be added to the crust as-is, or, marinate the fruit in sugar overnight. Caramelize the cape gooseberries to make a tarte tatin.
--Swirl the crushed fruit into ice cream batter for a zesty, sweet addition.
--Use cape gooseberries as you would cherry tomatoes in salads
--In South Africa, fruits are canned in syrup, and then exported.
--Dry the fruit in a dehydrator, or, cover with netting and sun dry—dried Cape gooseberries taste like raisins.
To enhance the fruit’s sweetness, prick the skin and roll in sugar: the fruits will absorb the sugar.
Note: Cape gooseberries do best in recipes where they’re the starring attraction.
Fruit: Tomato, tree tomato, tomatillo, butterfruit, orange, lemon, kumquat, passion fruit, pineapple, papaya, persimmon, sea buckthorn, tamarind, wood apple, apple, apricot, nectarine, strawberry
Vegetables: Potato, eggplant, bell pepper, corn, tomato, carrot, endive, celery
Herbs, spices, and oil: chocolate, orange juice, lemon juice, citrus zest, verbena, sugar, cream, vanilla, ginger, gingerbread, walnut, pecan, almond, cocoa, chili powder, Tabasco, tomato paste, cilantro, garlic, black pepper, green chili, achiote vodka, parsley, dill, mint, olive oil, mustard, vinegar, capers,
Cape gooseberries are part of the Solanaceae family, which includes potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, belladonna, tamarillo, poro poro, and even tobacco. This family also houses some of the world’s most poisonous plants.
75 variants of the berry exist worldwide.
Kuntali, Tankali, Tankasi (Sanskrit)
Macao, Tepariyo, Tipari (Hindi)
Budde hanu, doddabudd (Kannada)
Popti, chirbot, phopati (Marathi)
Milaku, takkali, pottipalam (Tamil)
Buddabusara, busarataya (Telegu)