What Is A Physalis (Or Cape Gooseberry) And What Do I Do With A Physalis?

A physalis is a small round orange berry in a papery outer covering which looks a bit like a Chinese lantern. It’s part of the nightshade family of plants which, apart from the deadly variety also includes tomatoes, potatoes and aubergines. Botanically then the physalis is closer to the tomato than to the gooseberry, but it has a sweet-sour taste somewhere between the two.

In fact the physalis’ other name, Cape Gooseberry, is a double misnomer – it’s not a gooseberry, and nor is it from the Cape (South Africa). It originates, in fact, from Peru.

A physalis adds an extra depth of flavour and interest when chopped and added to a tomato sauce or alternatively it’s also very good dipped in melted chocolate and served after dinner with coffee. It looks interesting and exotic as a garnish for all kinds of things – try a chocolate fondant for example.

In the UK it’s in season between August and the first frost – November or December.

Whitley Neill put physalis into their original gin, together with baobab fruit.

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