Physalis is a genus of plants in the Nightshade family ( Solanaceae ), native to warm temperate and subtropical regions throughout the world. The genus is characterized by the small orange fruit similar in size, shape, and structure to a small tomato, but partly or fully enclosed in a large papery husk derived from the calyx. Many Physalis species are called groundcherries. One name for Physalis peruviana is the Cape gooseberry, not to be confused with the vast majority of the gooseberries, which are of the genus Ribes.
They are herbaceous plants growing to 0.43 m tall, similar to the common tomato – a relative – but usually with a stiffer, more upright stem; they can be either annual or perennial. Most require full sun and fairly warm to hot temperatures. Some species are sensitive to frost, though others such as P. alkekengi (Chinese lantern) tolerate severe cold when dormant in winter.
In Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru are growing kapkrusäret game, with its origin from the Cape of Good Hope ( Cape of Good Hope, hence the name) in the early 1800s. Introductions have occurred in many parts of the world, especially in tropical and subtropsika areas, but also occurs in temperate climates:
Cultivation and uses
These plants grow in most soil types and do very well in poor soils and in pots. They need lots of water throughout the growing year, except for fruit-ripening time. Plants are susceptible to many of the common tomato diseases and pests; other pests such as the false potato beetle (Leptinotarsa juncta) also attack them. Propagation is by seed.
The typical Physalis fruit is similar to a firm tomato (in texture), and like strawberries or other fruit in flavor; they have a mild, refreshing acidity. The flavor of the cape gooseberry (P. peruviana) is a unique tomato/pineapple like blend. Physalis fruit has around 53 kcal for 100 grams and is rich in cryptoxanthin.
Its uses are similar to the common tomato or to fruits with a refreshing taste. Once extracted from its husk, it may be eaten raw or used in salads, desserts, as a flavoring, and in jams and jellies. They can also be dried and eaten much like raisins or other small dried fruit.
The cape gooseberry is native to the Americas but is commonly grown and feral in many subtropical areas, including South Africa (often incorrectly ascribed to the “Cape” in the common name, and thus often incorrectly written with a capital letter as “Cape gooseberry”. The “cape” is actually related to the husk surrounding the fruit.). Another important commercial type is the tomatillo (P. philadelphica). Physalis fruit is significant as an export product e.g. for Colombia.
Some species are grown as ornamental plants. For example, the hardy Physalis alkekengi is popular for its large, bright orange to red husks.
In Chinese medicine, the Physalis is used as a remedy for abscesses, coughs, fevers, and sore throats, among others. Smooth groundcherry (P. subglabrata) is considered a hallucinogenic plant by some, and its cultivation for other than ornamental purposes is outlawed in Louisiana by State Act 159. However, its use as a hallucinogen does not appear widespread.
The extinct Dacian language has left few traces, but in De Materia Medica by Pedanius Dioscorides, a plant called Strychnos alikakabos is discussed, which was called kykolis (or cycolis) by the Dacians. Some have considered this plant to be Physalis alkekengi, but Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has been proposed as an alternative candidate and indeed this widely-traded medical plant seems to be a better match.
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