With its jewel-like golden yellow skin and delicate, papery casing, the cape gooseberry is used as an exotic garnish for everything from salads to desserts. But if you thought the cape gooseberry was merely decorative, think again. With its unique, sweet-tart tropical flavour, this tasty little fruit is about to step out from the sidelines and take centre-stage.
Cape gooseberry overview
The cape gooseberry is known by many names. In its native Peru it is called uchava, while English-speaking countries may know it as goldenberry, physalis, ground cherry or pichuberry, and its rather poetic French name is amour-en-cage, or ‘love in a cage’.
It is a member of the nightshade family, making it a distant relative of several edible plants, including the tomato, eggplant and potato. It is even more closely related to the Mexican tomatillo and the Chinese lantern, both of which it resembles. Despite its name, it is not actually related to the European gooseberry, although it does have a similar flavour.
The fruit itself looks like a small, golden-yellow tomato, and is enclosed by a papery casing, like a Chinese lantern, that grows around the fruit as it forms. The casing is green at first, fading to a light brown as the fruit ripens. If kept inside its casing, a cape gooseberry can keep for up to 45 days.
In addition to its unique appearance, the cape gooseberry has a deliciously tropical flavour that is both sweet and tart at the same time. It is similar in flavour to a European gooseberry, but with a milder, more tropical taste, and a hint of earthiness, like a sweet cherry tomato. It is also tomato-like in texture, with a plump, firm skin and juicy flesh with edible seeds.
This tasty fruit can also play a part in helping you to stay healthy. It is low in calories, at around 74 per 140g serving, and is a good source of vitamin C, B vitamins, fibre and antioxidants, although the exact quantities vary for different cultivars.
Because of their high antioxidant content, cape gooseberries may be able to help prevent and even repair damage done to your body’s cells by compounds called free radicals, which cause ageing and serious diseases like cancer. A study carried out in 2015 found that some of the antioxidants in cape gooseberries were able to block the growth of cancer cells in test tubes, but there have been no tests on humans so far.
Cape gooseberries may also have a positive effect on your immune system. A 140g serving provides 21% of the RDI of vitamin C for women and 17% for men, as well as compounds called polyphenols, which may be useful in regulating your immune system.
As well as making an attractive garnish, the cape gooseberry can be used in fruity sauces, pies, puddings, chutneys, jellies, and ice cream. It can also be made into a salsa, like the tomatillo, and its sharp flavour is an excellent complement for rich cheese and meats, either served raw, or made into an Italian mostarda. In Latin America, it is popular as a batido or smoothie.
If you want to try cape gooseberries for yourself, we’ve made a list of some of our favourite recipes.
This luscious cape gooseberry compote from Good Food Stories is super simple to make, and tastes great with so many things. Try it with granola, swirled through yoghurt or ice cream, poured over pancakes, or as a sweet accompaniment for goat’s cheese or figs.
For a sophisticated twist on the classic scone, try these cape gooseberry scones from A Life Delicious. Bursting with the sweet, tart and tropical flavours of gooseberries and fresh lemon, these buttery-soft, flaky scones are perfect as a dessert, for afternoon tea, or with your mid-morning coffee.
We love the complex flavours of this easy cape gooseberry almond cake from Tasha’s Artisan Foods, made with almond meal for a subtly nutty flavour, Greek yoghurt and olive oil for a deliciously moist crumb, and a hint of fresh thyme. It looks simply stunning decorated with a handful of flaked almonds and sliced cape gooseberries, and the recipe even includes suggestions on how to make it gluten-free and vegan.
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