Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere

Cape Gooseberry

Physalis Peruviana

By Jeremy Trombley

Although the cape gooseberry is native to Peru, its name refers to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa where it became very popular and was brought to many other parts of the world.


The cape gooseberry plant is a small shrub, which is usually only 2 or 3 ft tall, but may reach up to 6 ft. Its flowers are yellow and purple and cupped by a green calyx or shell. When the flower falls, the calyx grows and the small fruit develops inside. In Chile, this feature has given the fruit the name amor en bolsa. The fruit is cherry sized and yellow or orange in color. It's flesh is juicy and contains several small seeds.

Origin and Distribution

As mentioned before, the cape gooseberry is native to Peru, however it is only a minor crop in this region. It is far more popular in parts of the world where it has been introduced such as South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. In these regions it is produced commercially and made into a variety of products, particularly jams and preserves. It is also popular in Southeast Asia and Hawaii where it is known as poha. Some gardeners in England have cultivated the plant successfully, but there it has not gained wide commercial success. In North America and the Caribbean, the cape gooseberry is largely unknown except among a few horticulturalists, such as Dr. David Fairchild who sang its praises in his book The World Was My Garden.


Cape gooseberry plants are highly productive and so there is often an overabundance of the fruit in places where it is cultivated successfully. The fruit may be eaten raw or incorporated into jams and preserves. Additionally, as with similar fruits, it can easily be incorporated into pies, puddings, cakes, fruit salads and sauces. However, care must be taken to avoid consuming unripe fruits, as they are toxic and have been associated with the death of cattle.


Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food 2nd Ed. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, USA, 2006.

Morton, Julia. Fruits of Warm Climates. Miami, FL: Julia F. Morton, 1987.

Cape Gooseberry

Images and Seeds